when you read the instructions, “Open Other End,” on the box of Pizza Shapes, you know for certain you will flip the box over but won’t trust yourself to follow your heart. create a playlist for your wake and make mixtapes to give to people now. teach yourself macrame and after you’re done tying yourself in knots realise you made something beautiful. water the plants when you are thirsty. write the grocery list and make it a hymn to the mundane. eat your meal with a candle (the good ones, the smelly ones you saved for special occasions) for no other reason than to see how far light travels in the dark. read Macbeth then Hamlet and be certain you don’t know the way forward. read TheTempest and The Road as the antidote. sort through the sock drawer and throw out the old pairs and the holey ones. make pairs of mismatched socks. go skinny dipping and experience baptism in the ordinary act of bathing. read the doctor’s letter and pretend it is a breakup letter to the illness ravaging your body and not a statement of irrefutable facts. go to Macca’s and order the burger you have never tried (the Filet-o-Fish) and know that this is what disappoint will taste like in the drive-thru. know that breadcrumbs are for cooking, not leaving a trail. learn why the rod and staff were the shepherd’s tools. wield them and master them for, and over, yourself. sit in the valley and sit on the mountain top and know both are places of vision. one is a mirror and the other is a lens. perspective will tell you which one to choose and let you change the way you see yourself.
At the end of April I posted a summary to Twitter of what creative work I had completed (I had to go searching for it)
2 chapters written for co-authored novel (first draft COMPLETED!)
short story/flash fiction written/polished. Final edits awaiting
pointillism art piece completed for friend’s 50th birthday
worked on draft of a new short/flash fiction
other misc art
Sometimes it can be hard to see progress until you look back and take inventory of what you have completed. So I kept a tally of positive creative steps from the past month
What did I get done this month?
3 stories subbed (2 flash fiction pieces, 1 short story)
My short story, A Shoebox of Silkworms, was submitted to the About Kids Short Story Prize and was Highly Commended. It was a very quick turnaround from submission to announcement).
2 small art commissions
1 large pointillism piece completed/framed (for sale)
Looking forward to June, I know it will be a creative write-off with marking assessments for at least the 1st half of the month. There may be opportunity for creating small art pieces but I will be holding off on large scale pointillism pieces until the end of the marking phase. In terms of writing, I am lining up a series of short stories to finish for a few places I’d like to sub to, and then I think I’ll be turning to some longer form work in the 2nd half of the year. I love the brevity of short form but want to push myself into longer form works. There will be lots of note making and researching to be done with the hope of making 2024 a year to pursue the novel I have been thinking about for a while (and put finishing touches on a novella but I need to focus on one month at a time).
This year has had similar success: an acceptance for a multidisciplnary exhibition (unpaid), The Flight of the Jellyfish (Mounted ARI Luft Exhibition – October 2023) and a Highly Commended for a children’s short story competition, A Shoebox of Silkworms (About Kids Books Short Story Prize).
There was some lovely feedback from the judges: This is a gentle story that is well written. It cleverly parallels the changing stages of a silkworm, to the changes about to be experienced by young girls as they move from primary to high school. The technical aspects of the story are handled well and made easy to understand, except in one case, where the word ‘mandibles’ was used without explanation.
Which also goes to show I have a lot to learn about writing for children.
About Kids Books Short Story Prize – you can read the winning entries HERE
What does all this mean?
It may not be the accolades or monetary success of last year but it is proof of creative life, having written stories, polished them and submitted them (I have two stories out in the world at the moment). These are the little wins.
The latter half of this year will be devoted to the completion of The JAR Story with Rus and Jodi. This will be a big win when it is released. I need to get writing.
How many Post It Notes will it take to cover a square kilometre? – 13,157,894 (or 31,328 packets of 6×70 pieces of the 76x76mm) How much will it cost to do it? – A packet of 6×70 is $16.98 from Officeworks. – Total is $531,949.44 How many memories can I fit on a Post It Note if I write really small? – As many angels as fit on the head of a pin. If I write one memory a day on a Post It Note, how long would it take to cover a square kilometre? – 36,049 years. Does the act of writing the memory allow you to forget or remember more clearly? Does the act of writing the memory mean alternate narratives are anathema? How many embarrassing memories does it take to form your character? Can you die from too many embarrassing memories? How many papercuts will make you bleed to death and can I use Post It Notes? – One. If you cut in the right place. I think I have enough Post It Notes.
Greetings from the desk of The Drum and Page. At the beginning of each year, I choose a word to help give me focus to the coming year.
In 2021, it was Limitless/Breakthrough.
For a COVID year, there was little breakthrough and a lot of limitations, yet it was a year to keep thinking what it means to be a writer and an artist.
Last year, 2022, the word was Relentless.
For many reasons, 2022 was relentless, particularly on a personal front, yet my focus was on moving in a direction where my writing was developing. This resulted in three publications: The School Magazine for The Diving Tower (November), winning the WestWords Living Stories Prize in July for We Three Kings, and winning the Blacktown Mayoral Creative Writing Prize in December for Cutting Through.
I was also a member of the WestWords Academy which was a fantastic time to network and gain further understanding into the writing and publishing world.
What does this next year hold? In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. Proverbs 16:9
I had this verse running through my head over the last few days and while I can plan and prepare, no one knows where the wind comes from or where it is going to so you make sure you adjust the beach towel wrapped around your neck, pretending it is a cape, and stand facing the wind so the cape billows out behind you, and you strike an appropriate superhero pose.
I know I want to maintain, and build on, the momentum I gained from last year. Therefore, my word/s for 2023 is:
To determine what this will look like for me, I have to examine my practices and my focus on where I want to expend my creative energy. Hence, for me, my words mean clearing the decks of older projects by either removing them from my work lists, or leaving them for another time. It also means dropping those things that look shiny and interesting but don’t advance where I want to go. For example, I’d been thinking for some time about a Red Bubble/Etsy store to sell my art, but that’s a whole business side of things that I don’t have time for. My art is personal expression and peace. If someone offers to buy a piece or wants a commission, that’s fantastic. My business focus is on writing and the craft of writing.
This year, a year of pursuing, and a year of pursuit, means finding the ‘thing’ – whether that is a story, art, reading, that fills me up and allows me to develop. I am hoping time spent with the projects that give me a sense of fullness will replenish me. There is always something to write, an idea to let compost, a paragraph to edit, a character to let loose in the lolly aisle at the supermarket with $100 to spend and see what they return with.
Long pieces of work have long gestation periods and long blocks of time for writing and editing. This may mean a less visible year, yet I will still be pursuing my writing goals and aims.
I have a couple of new desk buddies/guardians/motivators courtesy of Christmas to help me along the way.
Success is fleeting and unpredictable. Last year’s wins and publications were succour in a time of distress and stress. Success this year will look very different, and I am willing to change the criteria of ‘success’ to allow me to pursue my writing goals.
Think I need to invest a good pair of running shoes to make it through this year.
The theme for this year’s competition was “What now?” and I used the prompt to explore the distance of relationship between a father and his son as they navigate the changes in life as his son prepares to graduate high school and pursue the next phase of life. The setting of my story, Cutting Through, was a local barbershop where the father has to consider his own life through the lens of his son.
I believe excerpts will be published online and I will post them here as well.
I wasn’t able to attend the presentation last night, however, the mother of one of my writing students was present and snapped a photo of the announcement. My student forwarded me the picture last night.
It was a lovely surprise to round out the year. It has been a wonderfully successful creative year for me with my win for the WestWords Living Stories competition in July, publication in The School Magazine, and the 2022 Blacktown Mayoral Creative Writing Prize.
Next year will be a focus on longer form works so there will be less to visibly celebrate, but success will also be measured in the words written and the projects completed.
Earlier this year I sold a story to The School Magazine. The New South Wales Department of Education releases 10 issues a year to public school students, catering for all reading levels through different titles aimed at stages.
My story, The Diving Tower, was released in Touchdown. It is appropriate story as we come into the summer season in Australia as it is about a young boy, Zeke, who wants to conquer his fear of the diving tower at his local pool. I will say Zeke is a braver boy than I ever was.
It is beautifully illustrated by Australian artist, David Legge.
If you are a primary school teacher, there are a range of resources you can access to accompany the story created by The School Magazine. For specific activities to accompany The Diving Tower, click HERE.
A teacher friend of mine sent me a picture of the magazine at his school, and I was very chuffed to see kids still draw all over the cover of magazines.
A little bit of self-promotion. I do not like being in front of the camera. Being in front of the classroom is fine. Trying to sound like I know what I am talking about is difficult on a good day. Trying to sound knowledgeable in front of the camera to talk about what I do as a teacher is treacherous terrain. My school is highlighting the work of their teachers, and I was picked on for the creative writing class I am teaching this year, a new initiative, and the WestWords Living Stories win from earlier this year. But, yes, this is what I believe in as a creative person for my students.
In the piece I am wearing my “I Should Be Writing” badge, and a badge from one of my favourite bands, We Lost The Sea. It’s my intention to wear band merch whenever I can if doing writing stuff to promote my favourite bands.
My next aim is to become better at public speaking.
You can find the link HERE. Sorry, it goes to LinkedIn.
I am looking forward to reading all the entries, especially the younger writers who I hope will continue their pursuit of the craft because it will be awesome to see their writing journey into the future.