The Power of Story

We all remember stories that have an impact on our lives; the books we read or the movies we saw from our childhood, adolescence and adulthood.

We internalise the characters, their dialogue, idiosyncrasies, their hopes and dreams as if they were ours.

But beyond the story is the bigger ideas, the bigger questions nestled within the text, wrapped up in the books on the character’s shelf or in the pockets of their favourite jacket. We take them, often unconsciously, and slip them between the pages of our notebooks or hide them under our pillows.

The power of the story lies within the big ideas or questions revealed in the narrative. These big ideas and questions find their expression and meaning in the actions and emotions of individual characters going about their day to day business.

The reader understands the narrative as a microscopic view of a telescopic realm. The narrative is a parable of meaning expressed in the actions of fictional characters we believe to be real because we understand their lives as if they were ours.

This is the power of story.

Sign Posts, Goal Posts and Blog Posts

Dear Reader, 

I’ve just finished reading Stephen Chbosky’s “The Perks of Being A Wallflower” and the protagonist Charlie writes letters to an unnamed and unknown recipient. So I am going to follow suit. I like the anonymity. I am sorry I don’t know you by name. I don’t know if you will read this, but if you’re willing to listen to me ramble for a little bit that would be reward enough.

Sign Posts

I am frustrated.

I am frustrated at the lack of momentum in getting work finished. I began writing in 2009 (six years ago), beginning with small achievable steps with the aim of having a novel produced by this time. To do that I started reading blogs on writing short stories, structure, voice, style. I started writing short stories from prompts to get me focused. I wrote a short piece of flash fiction almost every week for months, generating new ideas and pieces of work. 

I was gaining momentum and the desire grew. New opportunities were offered: a collaborative Choose Your Own Adventure style project, invitations to submit to anthologies and giving me my first publication credits, an invite to write for a website. Awesome. 

But where has it all come unstuck?

Almost 5 years ago I took long service leave from my teaching job for a term with the aim of writing a novel. I had a plan, a text book to help me with structure, an 11-page, 6K word outline.

I wasn’t ready. I only managed 26K and loose change.

Since then I’ve co-written an epistolary novel, edited it, polished it for publication and now it’s waiting for a synopsis almost two years after the first draft was done and a year after edits and rewrites were completed.

Like a hyperactive goldfish who can’t remember what his castle looks like I’ve flitted and flirted with other creative writings mediums: Post It Note poetry, blackout/erasure poetry, haiku, haibun, poetry.

Trying to find the last time I finished a short story and had it ready for publication sends me back a couple of years. There is a document (there are many documents) sitting open on my laptop of a short story that is waiting for me to finish it. It sits idly by, adding days and weeks and months while I sort out what I want to do with it. It’s a favourite toy, once played with every day now sitting on the shelf collecting dust waiting to be played with again.

Even here on my blog, all sorts of ambitious ideas have sprouted, were watered for a while but are now sticks in the soil, without sustenance. without root, without fruit.

The list list of projects started and waiting completion is long. And an embarrassment. 

I have grand aims, grand ambitions, zero movement and life keeps kicking me in the groin. I am partly to blame for some of that happening. Other times it is completely out of my control.

Over the last few weeks I have seriously contemplated turning off the blog, putting the pen and notebooks away and shredding my work. Another example of lack of discipline, lack of commitment, lack of being able to do anything worthwhile. 

Everything is a smegging mess at the moment.

One good thing, though, is I am reading again. Finding enjoyment and fulfilment in the written word.

Goal Posts

The conflict between dream and reality is vicious. I wanted to be so much further ahead than where I am now.

How does one find discipline and commitment when it has never been an active part of my life? The answer, I know, is simple: take one day at a time.

I’d like to take a day, one day of a weekend sometime, and really nut out what I want to achieve. Do I want to write novels? Novellas? Short stories? Verse novels? Poetry? Some of these? One of these? A combination? Are these achievable? Are they compatible?

More importantly, HOW I am going to achieve it? 2016 needs to be a year of GSD: Getting Stuff Done. I need to nut it out for daily, weekly, monthly goals in order to make this happen.

Blog Posts 

Thank you reader for allowing me to vent a little, sort myself out and get my head into a clearer vision of a way forward.

I’ll keep you updated on my progress.





Promoting New Art – Helen Perris

I love coming across new music, new books, new artists, and supporting and promoting them however I can.

One way is blogging about their art and material, another by putting links via social media avenues.

Today, local Sydney artist, Helen Perris releases her new song, Mirrors and Windows. I really like this song. Lovely production. It has a pop sensibility with reference to Helen’s influences in cabaret and musical theatre. Think Amanda Palmer, Tori Amos, Kate Bush. All lovely stuff.

Helen is a singer songwriter, musician, promoter of the arts and a generally cool person to know.

Watch the video below.

Check out Helen’s page and bandcamp site for more of her music.

Whenever you can, however you can, support artists. Promote them, buy their products. 

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The After Analysis Is Fading – A Blackout/Mashup Poem

Just before Christmas my writing co-conspirator sent me a mash up of two pages (and stupid me forgot to take a ‘before’ picture) and let me loose to see what I would do with it.

The left hand page is the front page of the New York Times, the day after the moon landing. The right hand page is a diary entry.

I turned it into a blackout/erasure poem and reproduced it below with some changes to punctuation.


The After Analysis Is Fading

to have to go
a half degree
angle it and take a swing
without threatening the surreal
earth. There is no time to
heartbeats told of a religious space
the time to see each other
but isn’t now
and I agree.
command, kiss his cheek, and
informed it’s not tentative
his arms
replied. not actually going to let me go.
the unsaid stuff in 
degrees in the sunlight. We let each other
degrees below zero, short enough to stop it becoming
a blanket, more like floating and less
I see his light, he’s 
higher, put the window down
this landing in the 
after analysis is fading
flying through the 
equator, the beautiful buzz
reduces the messenger
the moon

Practice Pages – Peeling Fruit

I haven’t had much time to write lately and the lack of practice is an area I want to correct so I can maintain discipline. It was the focus of a recent blog post, Finding the Flaws in Your Writing. As I noted, I am a slow learner.

Therefore I gave myself 10 – 15 minutes to write a paragraph with no care of editing, purpose, structure. No other agenda except to explore an idea pulled from my note book.

I pulled the following idea from my notebook to form the starting point:

The peeling of a mandarin; the damage to the skin to eat the flesh inside.

In my hands I hold the mandarin you picked from the fruit bowl. I wasn’t particularly hungry but you were and wanted me to peel it for you. A child-like invocation of trust and acceptance. You are seated across from me, hands clasped together, waiting.

“Can I have some?” I asked.

A nod. Acquiescence to share.

The autumnal grace of peeling a mandarin, stripping the skin from the flesh and piling it on the table like a tree sheds its leaves, is undermined by the viciousness of its action. My thumb pushes in to the knobbed skin on top, an outward belly button you called it, breaks through and the spray of citric acid spits. It is caught in the summer afternoon light, hovers, reflects, dissipates. The freshness of the scent makes you rub your nose as if it tickled the very tip.

I catch you smiling and my eyes drop to the line of your singlet top. Your breasts move as you raise your hand to tuck a loose strand of hair behind your ear. 

There is a question, which, if asked, will change everything between us.

The skin forms a pile, broken pieces of a puzzle it would be impossible to solve. I could lay out the pieces, align them from where they came but without the flesh there is no substance to hold it. In the act of consuming I have destroyed.

You fidget, wanting to bite into the segments, held up by me until the entirety of the mandarin is peeled. I pull away a few segments for myself and hand the remainder over. As I pull away the fibrous strings, flensing the flesh even further, you rip two segments and bite into them. A stream of juice spouts onto the table as more dribbles down your chin. With the back of your hand you wipe your chin then the table smearing the juice further.

“I’ll clean it later,” you say with a mouth full of flesh before spitting the pips into your hand, reaching across the table and dumping them onto the torn skins as discarded bones. 

Our intimacy is bound in the question I want to ask for it will strip our skin like peeling a mandarin that we may eat the flesh inside.

Planning With Post It Notes

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been mapping out the verse novel I keep referring to. I started it last year with no real plan and began writing. 13.5K words later it petered to a halt as the year ended and I endeavoured to pick it up at the beginning of this year.

Best laid plans often involve doughnuts but returning to this project stalled for a number of reasons.


Staring at a document is not always the best way to find the holes and work out what needs to be fixed. When it comes to learning styles I am not much of a visual person, preferring verbal/auditory and writing (no surprises there). 

After a lot of thinking and composting trying to work out how this would all hold together, I thought about using Post It Notes to visually map the story I was telling.

Therefore, I printed it out, bought a wad of Post It Notes and started scribing, the title of each poem on individual notes. I needed to see the overall arching narrative, find out where the gaps were and think through what ending it was working towards.

Phase One – Beginning Mapping


The yellow Post It Notes is the MC arranged as the document appears on my computer. The pink is the MC’s own poetry, her Fermata (musical pauses – there is a strong musical reference in this verse novel). The blue is the MC’s boyfriend and his contribution to the narrative, his Random Conversations.

It reads from left to right (using the yellow Post It notes).

Phase Two – Playing With the Pieces


I began to rearrange the order of the poems and play around as to where the Fermata and Random Conversations would fit. Still reading from left to right but now adding in more of the narrative.

From here I went back to my notebook and started making notes about the plot and characters, scribbling out a brief synopsis to help work out the structure and development of the narrative.

Phase Three – I’m Thinking of Something Orange


The benefit of doing it on the wall was to see where there were gaps in the narrative. I used orange notes to suggest scenes/ideas/concepts to help build the storyline.

Phase Four – The “Final” Version


This mess makes sense to me. The story now has a structure and a flow (of sorts). I have now transferred the Post It Notes to my exercise book so I can begin the rewriting and editing.

I am going to take my print out and rearrange the pages as per the order shown above and reread to see if it holds together, even allowing for the gaps and silences yet to be written. 

I doubt this will be the final iteration in terms of plot and structure but doing this has given me a clearer idea of the form and direction of my verse novel.

Handy Hints

  • buy quality Post It notes as you don’t want them falling off
  • have a large handy piece of blank wall, or windows.
  • take a photo regularly in case they fall off so you can return them
  • colour code (character, plot, problems, themes)

I intend to use Post It Notes to help with the planning and mapping of a vignette collection I am working towards. Many, many uses.

Perhaps you’d like to join in Post It Note Poetry in February, 2016.

Community Over Competition

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I posted this yesterday and it was what I believe in.

I want to develop creative communities for amateurs and professionals where they can meet in real life and online to support and encourage, critique and develop, brainstorm and collaborate.

Gathering artists, musicians, writers from different creative fields to be a support network. We all tend to congregate with like minded artists (for me it’s writers) but how much more would we gain if we also met with other creatives to expand our thinking?

Creativity is about developing and championing community and the individuals within them. 

Who will you champion in your community?