Category Archives: The Writer’s Life

Zentangle #31 Two For One

 

Two For One

we
are only two of
flesh and blood
compare us once

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Handwritten Pages #18 The Kiss

Their kiss was a reintroduction to joy; the passionate self-belief everything would be ok in a screwed up world when the screwed-uppedness manifested in a constant shit-storm that threatened to drown them and salt the earth in the aftermath.
To get there, invitations slipped in as ordinary moments as the antithesis to pain’s physical form: meals in Tupperware containers reheated in microwaves and eaten with grief and gratitude; cups of tea with phones ignored and flowers as prayers for healing.
And in the end, the scraping away and the shovelling of shit to make manure for a broken soil leading to the kiss of forgiveness and the parched desert of intimacy soaked with rain awaiting the bloom of wild flowers.

My Shopping List of Regrets

if i collected
all my shopping lists of regrets
i would take a permanent marker
erase them all
and make a black sky
to populate with stars

To Become A Whale – Book Review

“To Become A Whale” is the debut novel by Brisbane-based author, Ben Hobson.

This is the blurb from the publisher, Allen & Unwin:

To Become a Whale tells the story of 13-year-old Sam Keogh, whose mother has died. Sam has to learn how to live with his silent, hitherto absent father, who decides to make a man out of his son by taking him to work at Tangalooma, then the largest whaling station in the southern hemisphere. What follows is the devastatingly beautiful story of a gentle boy trying to make sense of the terrible reality of whaling and the cruelty and alienation of his new world, the world of men.

The novel is coming-of-age exploration of masculinity; one version of Australian masculinity that the reader is presented with. But no judgement is given. The reader determines how to understand the parameters and boundaries of 1960’s masculinity and how it measures up in the new millennium now almost two decades old.

Walt is a man respected on the flensing deck for his hard work, commitment, while his solitary nature isolates him from the company of other men. One of Walt’s crew, Phil, is a man who wants to play guitar but works the whaling station only as a job. He is another whose belief in the strictures of masculinity are limiting on the perception of himself.

The brokenness of Walt’s understanding and perception of his masculinity is as blatant as his mangled hand and framed by the nature of his work: deconstructing whale carcasses into constituent parts, unable to see the beauty of the whole through the nature of his work. Unable to understand and come to terms with the nature of his own grief. It’s this framework that he wants to impose upon his son.

Death is an ugly reality for young Sam: that of his mother, the work on the whaling station, his understanding of masculinity and his emotional self as the novel progresses. But through death comes rebirth. 

For me, the distance of the novel’s setting from current events is what allowed a range of questions to be asked about the role and nature of contemporary masculinity. It is a definition that is particularly complex yet rigidly defined in parts of Australian culture where normative masculine behaviours are exemplified through sport, violent behaviour, stoic emotional retardation. As a high school teacher, I could see this novel having a place with Year 9 and 10 boys.

The novel has drawn comparisons with Tim Winton and Favel Parrett, and those comparisons are warranted; there is not a wasted sentence. This is a nuanced novel. There is a beautiful sense of space for the reader to inhabit within the descriptive style. You feel the prose move with the tides and the heaving carcasses of the whales.

This is a remarkable debut novel and I thoroughly recommend it.

New Year, New What Exactly?

It is the year 2017, according to the Gregorian Calendar. It may as well be Year 42AMB (After My Birth). Or Year Zero with the way the leadership of the world is going.

Reflection: 2016 was meant to be the Year of Getting Stuff Done.

Stuff didn’t get done. 

Because reasons.

Some within my control. Others outside my control.

And it was the most frustrating year regarding my creative output. I realised it’s been two years since I’ve written a complete short story. The most output I had was the rough draft of a verse novel (still incomplete) and part of a novella. I had done little pieces of writing but there was a host of reasons that kept me from putting in the work and making it happen. 

It’s not trying to make excuses, although I can do that with the death of two significant people during the year. It’s an acknowledgement of what I did not do. I can use the word ‘failure’ without it becoming a label to wear.
I failed to complete projects.
I failed to write.
I failed to make time to work out what I wanted to do.
I failed to plan.
I failed to pursue my creative desires.

I did do things that kept me thinking about writing and creativity, like my zentangle poetry. More importantly, I gave myself permission to put it aside for the sake of significant priorities. And that’s ok. 

But with the end of the year, taking a break over January, I needed to move beyond the sloth and slump and take on a new perspective. In speaking with some close writing friends, we try and find a single word to help guide and focus our creative work. It took me a few days to sort it out but my key word is “Intentionality.” 

If I am to pursue the creative goals I have set for myself I need to be intentional about the work I have planned and the work I plan to do. Which leads me to how I want to approach the new year.

DO THE WORK.

If I am to be intentional in my creative work, I therefore need to DO THE WORK. That work might involve planning a new short story, creating a new zentangle poem, writing a new piece or editing a current story.

It needs to be planned, deliberate, month-to-month goals and outcomes. One month it might simply be planning and note making for a project. Another month it might be actually writing a short story or pushing towards the completion of the verse novel or novella. At the moment, this month is given over to completing a vignette collection.

It’s a new year and a need for a new perceptive. Therefore, I will be intentional and do the work.

How about you?

Zentangle Poetry For Sale

I have produced a short run of zentangle poetry on postcards and calico tote bags  for sale.

POSTCARDS $8AUS (inc. postage)
Set of six cards.
Top Row (L-R): Coloured Pencils; Sadness and Comfort; Bare Feet
Bottom Row (L-R): Information; Two Ravens; Celestial Bodies

zentangle-postcards


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TOTE BAGS
Coloured Pencils (zentangle poem)
Calico Tote Bag $11AUS (inc. postage)

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Stupid Question (blackout poem)
Calico Tote Bag $11AUS (inc. postage)

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Zentangle Bundle
In the Zentangle Bundle you get: a set of postcards and one of each of the tote bags. $25AUS (inc. postage)

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If you have any hassle paying for items, please let me know.
Thanks

The Articulation of Stories as Scars

Last week during a reading of some blog post or another (and for the life of me I wish I had kept the reference to link you to it; I went searching through my browser history without luck) and this idea developed:

screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-9-45-20-am

My apologies to the original author whose work I was reading because I don’t think my thought is originally mine, simply a reworking or a remixing of what I had read and I don’t want to pass this statement off as purely my own. I’m using it as a launching point for discussion. 

As a story teller, the narrative I am creating has a purpose. For my writing, I want to explore the lives of ordinary people, to understand who they are, their decisions and the ramifications.

I do not write autobiographically so the story is not an attempt to exorcise a past, redress an indiscretion or justify a choice. But a narrative, once released to the reader, can wound or heal. 

A story has the potential to open up issues in the reader’s past, or to dress a wound. Such is the power a story can wield. As a writer, I don’t know what the impact a story will have on the reader, and it is my hope that the story I write will move the reader in some way.

The stories we tell one another, orally or written, are evidence of the life we have lived. Those stories are like scars; wounds inflicted by accident, neglect, or others. They are markers of who we are, what we were, what we have become and what we want to be.

Sometimes those scars are worn with pride. Sometimes those scars are hidden. Sometimes those scars are repurposed, redecorated.

This is the power of the story.