Category Archives: The Writer’s Life

Mount Pleasant – A Track By Track Breakdown

Here is a track-by-track breakdown of the songs on the record, what inspired the band and how I used those ideas to create the narrative of each song for the book.

Listen to the album here: MOUNT PLEASANT

Prologue

I wrote the Prologue as a way of establishing the setting and motifs of the collection, that of deceit, deception and false facades. The setting of Western Sydney was inspired by the origins of the band, and it is the city I live in.

The Prologue is a fictional retelling of the changing of the name of the suburb where three of the band members grew up. There is no music for this piece of flash fiction but it explains the origins of the album’s title and frames the inspiration of each track, and allowed me to explore a set of stories based in Western Sydney in the 1990s and early 2000s.

The title of the album comes from the name of the suburb where three of the band members grew up. As a name it no longer exists. The local council wiped its name to clear itself of the violence and dangerous youths inhabiting the space. Nothing changed except the name.

Track 1 Holding Pattern

This was the first song released off the album and the first story I wrote. The title of the song is an in-joke as a close friend of the band claimed they were being kept in a ‘holding pattern’ due to the band’s lack of decision making. The band describe the song as being a bit all over the place but feeling right.

It was released with the cover art of the album which gave me the idea of a young girl living in an apartment complex, running up and down the stairs as a means of having some form of control in her life. She meets a recently arrived young boy and the story explores the holding pattern each of them lived in based on their suburb and how it affects their lives.

The song is angular and emphatic in the opening before a pause, a held breath leading to a crushing crescendo, and I wanted the narrative to have that same sense of movement. To have the reader imagine what it means to run, to be held within social strictures, and to be left behind.

Track 2 – Potemkin

The song title refers to the Potemkin village. The myth of the term comes from stories of a fake portable village built solely to impress Empress Catherine II by her former lover Grigory Potemkin, during her journey to Crimea in 1787.

I translated the original setting of Crimean Russia to that of a high school student, the pauper queen as she is named in the story, attending a performance of King Lear and explores the artifice of theatre as a metaphor of the schoolgirl’s existence. This existence extends to where she lives and how it defines her life and the life of her younger brother.

For the ending of this story I channelled John Hughes and The Breakfast Club for a monologue that would look great as a short film or a slam poem.

Track 3 – Pendock and Progress

This is my favourite song on the album. It is fast, frenetic, chaotic and triumphant, yet has pauses for breath. And I love the sound of the snare drum; it’s a perfect sonic fit in the track. It is the names of the streets where the band grew up.

It was the second song released and the second story I wrote. Pendock Close became a cul-de-sac, a dead-end street the protagonist rides his second-hand bike around. The cul-de-sac stands as a metaphor for the facades of society we inhabit, those we are forced to live and yet have no understanding there is something other what you consider normal.

Track 4 – Meet Me In The Meadow

This is a softer sounding song, and the narrative follows the burgeoning relationship a girl has with her crush, and the metamorphosis of adolescent sexuality. It is almost romantic in its feel, and the band used a quote from the Wes Anderson film, “Moonlight Sunrise” as the title.

In reading a synopsis of the film, the romantic element stood out. Not wanting to frame a narrative with a Wes Anderson style I diverted it to examine how boys and girls engage with the facades of masculinity and femininity; how they are both forced into frameworks that are detrimental to their developing sense of emotional, sexual and mental identity.

There are echoes and facets of these facades found in other stories in this collection, notably “Potemkin,” “Time Away” and “Gueules Cassees.” We need to interrogate who we are and understand how we have been deceived into accepting less than what we are worth.

Track 5 – Shambles

This story has a lightness in the music and in the content in comparison to the other stories. It is more comic in its approach than the other stories but still reflects the divide we encounter between what we think we are and what we really are. It is tongue in cheek in places, and it was definitely fun to write, and is reflected in the bouncy joyfulness of the music.

The protagonist is in his last year of high school and his academic life is a bit of a shambles. He’s a Western suburbs philosopher who likes grunge, works in a fish’n’chip shop and says there are two types of people in every situation. It even had my editor, Jodi, using “There are two types of people…” in her vernacular after editing this story.

I don’t think we use the word “shambles” enough. Time to bring it back.

Track 6 – Time Away

The band describe the song as an attempt of taking “time away” from all of the pitfalls of life but the escape is never found. Therefore my vision for this story was the father of a family who get to go on a holiday to the Gold Coast only to come home and find out he has been retrenched.

When Jodi sent back her initial edits, the email began with an expletive enhanced exclamation. I know if I get that then the story is working. Ben Hobson, who provided the quote on the cover, also connected with this story. I believe it is the heart of the collection.

The opening of this song has two parts. The first sounds like a demo track, setting up the motif of the track. The second part of the opening is a favourite section of mine as it has the drum track muted, all the top end rolled off so there is no sibilance in the hi hats, and it feels like a heartbeat, which was channelled into the father in the story. When the track kicks in proper, the bass drum is a thumping vibrancy underpinning the remainder of the track. There are so many layers to this track in its construction as it builds and builds in the midsection of the track before pulling back, and it is in this section, the return to the muted drums, that the father in the story wrestles with himeself.

It is perhaps one of the “softest” stories to read but the resonance is unsettling. Stories of masculinity and what that means, are in the forefront of our minds, and how that affects us, our children and families, and the wider community. From that central story, which as Track 6 is like the halfway point, every other story resonates from that point and reflects the broader perspectives and perceptions. One action can have far-reaching consequences.

Track 7 – Summer Sun

This story references the horrendous summer bushfires of 2001/2002 in Sydney where the paradoxical beauty of the world is slowly being destroyed. Our understanding of the macro comes into focus when we see the lives of individuals in the micro.

Bushfires are a constant threat in Australia and in 2019-2020, from September to almost March, significant parts of the country were on fire. This year we have had significant rainfall and lower temperatures.

We will within this dichotomy, between risk and reward, and the story focuses on a young man who observes the destruction of the bushfire even as his own body undergoes chemotherapy treatment.

Track 8 – Well, Go Well

This song serves as an interlude before “Gueules Cassees” and the band was influenced by Boards of Canada in the composition of this track.

I used it as a platform to lead in the final track, and once I knew what the focus was for “Gueules Cassees” I focused on developing a masculine voice for this interlude. A Twitter thread gave this piece its impetus where the user asked people to respond with apologies used by men in situations of domestic violence, sexual assault or manipulative behaviour in relationships. This narrative is a compilation of various apologies which frames the final track on the album.

The opening of the narrative begins, “APOLOGISE LIKE A MAN.” and uses various iterations of this sentence with different punctuation and capitalisation. It is also the final line. I was interested in how punctuation and capitalisation affected the reading experience and the intended meaning.

Track 9 – Gueules Cassees

The band describes this as the most brutal track to close on. “Gueules Cassees” is a French term meaning ‘broken faces’ and refers to ex-servicemen of World War 1 who returned home with disfigured faces due to the war. A Google search will provide you with some horrifying images of the reality of war, and the people who tried to assist them in their return to society where physical disfigurement lead to social ostracism, loss of status, breakdown of relationships or being turned away from jobs.

I needed to find a parallel of broken faces and in choosing the issue of domestic violence, I wanted to engage with the issue and the hiddenness of its impact on women. I was hesitant to write this, wanting to be authentic and truthful without getting it wrong, so I sought the opinion of other readers. Three women volunteered to read for me, to ensure I had the veracity of the story correct. Unfortunately, it rang true for those early readers, and they also offered new insights to develop the narrative further. I hope I have done this narrative justice.

It is a brutal concept, reflected in the music and the language. Seeing this song played live at the end of 2020 was remarkable as I had had the story drafted, and the intensity of the track was palapble to me.

Thank you for reading, and thank you for listening.

The Fallow Season

The Fallow Season

Due to the nature of my job as a high school English teacher there are certain times of the year when the time to create is very limited.

This is one of those times.

July to September is very busy, and time to focus on large projects or develop new ideas is very limited. Therefore I call this my fallow season.

I leave projects and ideas on hold, waiting for the next break to pick them up again. I can do little things like drawing but writing projects wait.

It is frustrating for a number of reasons. If I have built momentum on a project I have to let it slow down. If I want to spend time developing a new project it can only be done in small parcels of time if I have the mental strength to do so. It is frustrating because I am not where I want to be as a writer. There are other factors in the background that also hinder progress, and each time I think I have found a new pattern or way of creating, the parameters shift and I have to restart.

So this is me, waiting out the season but watching over the fields.

The Cartographer’s Journal

Hello there,

It has been a little while since I’ve dropped in here to announce anything but in the background things have been happening.

During June I was participating in the #JARWriteathon where I set out to write a zine combining vignettes and poetry with continuous line drawing.

It is now finished and very soon it will be available for sale.

Here is the blurb:

The Cartographer’s Journal is the fragmented exploration of a man’s life following the death of his grandfather and is the catalyst for examining his life and the moments he remembers. He plots his experiences as way points and erects milestones to understand how memory, distorted and fragmented as it is, constructs an identity although it is not fixed until secured in retrospect.

These random moments of memory are catalogued in our heads, a sequence of unconnected and disconnected events that serve as marker points of who we are. To explore the past is to chart the periphery of maturation as “Here Be Dragons.”

We make our way forward in life by walking backwards.

You can see a preview HERE.

The Correlation Between Writing and Single Line Drawing

The Correlation Between Writing and Single Line Drawing

A single line drawn; a continuous, unbroken line.

The pen invents the existence of the image from the blank space of the page, drawing the white into the pen to reveal the darkness of the solar system beneath. Conversely, the tabula rasa of sight is given vision through the pen, leaking the blackness of the imagination onto the page.

The line takes shape: straight paradoxes, curved obstructions, angular indices, folded waves, circular epiphanies. The brevity of a single line suggests, coaxes, entices or has the complexity of a woven tapestry to illuminate, postulate, seduce.

As it is with words.

Single words.

Verb. Noun. Adjective. Preposition.

When connected together they expand, like the line, to form phrases and clauses. When arranged in single horizontal lines as sentences they give direction and purpose to the shape of the narrative.

Sentences with the lines of tailored couture bestow a resplendence of awareness.

Sentences with the sparseness of underpants and socks bestow a nakedness of understanding.

What are words but a single continuous line.

Momentum and Progress

For the first time in a long time I am feeling like I am riding the crest of a new creative wave; one of momentum and propulsion.
For the past few years, due to specific personal circumstances, my creativity has felt compressed and it was more of a release valve for me, by writing brief snippets of prose on paper, or writing poems on Post It Notes, and starting continuous line drawing.
None of it allowed me to build momentum and movement to pursue a project the way I wanted it to.
However I felt that if I stopped creating it would cease to be a significant part of my life in the way I believe it to be. Small pieces were a way of creating an equilibrium, allowing me to breathe above water.
This new year has opened up, and there is a great sense of peace and joy. I feel I am able to write freely again like I haven’t for quite some time.
Here’s to this year to bring dormant seeds to life.

What Am I Reading in 2020?

Shastra Deo – The Agonist

For the past few years I have been tracking my reading: number of books read, author (male/female), genre etc to have a look what I have been reading and to see what blind spots I do have, and to make sure I am reading more in order to improve my writing. As an English teacher I also need to model to my students the importance of reading.

In my first year of tracking my reading (2017) I read 24 books. In 2018 I managed 32 books. Last year I only read 17 books (because reasons like moving house).

In 2019 I particpated in the Goodreads Reading Challenge, and I am having another go at it this year. I go back to work tomorrow, and classes start next week so I used my time to read some set texts for classes, and my own choice. I have read 9 books so far, the majority of them poetry anthologies. I am going to change focus and read a few novels but might intersperse more poetry between them.

Over on my Instagram @handwrittenpages you’ll find my brief review and an accompanying illustration, mostly continuous line drawings but for the two most recent texts I’ve changed the style.

My hope in reading more widely is to give me greater awareness of writing styles, imagery, description, characterisation, narrative focus etc so that the projects I have lined up for this year have a better chance of delivering what I want them to.

What are you reading in 2020? And why?

Post It Note Poetry 2020

2020 is the 8th year of Post-It Note Poetry. Not bad for something that started as a dare to write bad poetry on Post-it notes between two friends.

The JAR Writers’ Collective will host the month-long poetry event this year, co-ordinated by Jodi CLeghorn, in league with fellow Collective members myself and Rus VanWestervelt, and ably supported by eight brilliant Post-It Note Poetry Ambassadors.

𝗔𝗕𝗢𝗨𝗧 𝗣𝗢𝗦𝗧-𝗜𝗧 𝗡𝗢𝗧𝗘 𝗣𝗢𝗘𝗧𝗥𝗬

Post-It Note Poetry runs every day in February and is designed with two broad aims in mind:

1. To encourage people of all skills sets and persuasions to explore and have fun with poetry – whether they are seasoned poets or curious souls attempting poetry for the first time since their teenage years.

2. To create within a confined physical space (the size of a post-it note) as a positive limitation. It is also a way of making poetry composition possible for 29 consecutive days.

“𝗧𝗛𝗘 𝗥𝗨𝗟𝗘𝗦”

The rules are simple for those who’d like to play along at home (at work, on the bus or in any of those in between places perfect for scribbling poetic words on small squares of sticky paper).

🖊 Write/build/create a poem every day of February.

🖊 Poems must fit on a post-it note (or be an equivalent sized poem – ie. no more than 8 lines on a larger backing).

🖊Poems must adhere to the original light-hearted spirit of permission to write badly – in which poems can tackle serious content, but internal editors/critics all get a break over February.

🖊Post poems to social media with the hashtag #pinp20.

🖊Follow the hashtag and enjoy what others are creating.

We look forward to introducing our ambassadors in the coming days.

All questions or inquiries can be directed to me!!

If you’d like to join the Facebook group – you can do so here.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/460406284024429/

Launching Post Marked Piper’s Reach

It is not too far away now that “Post Marked Piper’s Reach” is launched into the world.

If you’d like an autographed copy, click over to the Post Marked Piper’s Reach bookstore to get one: https://postmarkedpipersreach.wordpress.com/bookstore/

If you want a copy for your digital reader, then pop on over to the Vine Leaves Press site for options depending on your preference.

https://www.vineleavespress.com/postmarked-pipers-reach

 

Post Marked Piper’s Reach Review

It is only a little over a month before “Post Marked Piper’s Reach” is released and  an early review is in.

Courtesy of Andrew Gillman, you can read his review HERE

Suffice to say, we are more than a little chuffed at his review because it encapsulates so much of the novel’s heart (of darkness).

Links for ordering copies can be found at the Vine Leaves Press page HERE in both paperback and ebook in a region best for you.

The JAR Writers’ Collective

I am very pleased to announce the launch of a new writing initiative I am involved in, The Jar Writers’ Collective.

It is the culmination of some thinking and brainstorming between myself, my collaborative co-conspirator, Jodi Cleghorn and another collaborative co-conspirator, Rus VanWestervelt.

Together, we are The Jar Writers’ Collective.

The three of us have been working together in some way, shape or form, for some years now, and its was decided to formalise our collaborative efforts, and individual works-in-progress, in a new writing venture. 

Our work ranges from novel, to novella, poetry, script, art and combinations of any of the above, and it excites us as to what we can produce individually and collectively.

This collaboration allows us to champion our own work, the work of our collaborators, and the work we do together. We are free from restrictions about what we publish, and how we publish it. We are treading a fine line between indie press and indie authors. Our first release is slated for June, 2019.

Our first post, Opening The Jar, lets you in to see who we are, what we are about and what we hope to achieve.

It’s not just about us as creatives; it’s also about giving permission and tools to others to explore their own creative practices.

Drop in to have a read, subscribe to our monthly newsletter, or our weekly blog posts and prompts.

You’ll also find us on Facebook (click on through and Like our page), Twitter and Instagram.

We’d love to hear from you and get to know you as part of the community.