Tag Archives: jodi cleghorn

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.

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.

Post Marked: Piper’s Reach Christmas Special

It’s nice to return to previous stories and characters. The collaborative epistolary novel I wrote, Post Marked: Piper’s Reach, while still seeking a home for publication, provides a wonderful depth of characters and ideas to return to.

Jodi (my co-writer) and I have often bounced around ideas for other stories in the world of Ella-Louise and Jude, and the town of Piper’s Reach. 

Two years ago we released a Christmas Special focused on the night of the surf club Christmas party in 1991. There’s a lovely tradition in English television of the Christmas Special episode. Think of Doctor Who.

The night in question is mentioned in the letters so it was a natural place to return to and looked at their burgeoning, and doomed relationship, while also seeing their lives through their family and friends.

Old friends, like old characters, well met. We have a very soft spot for the characters of Ella-Louise and Jude; they are our “comfort writing;” the writing that flows almost unconsciously to create the lives of characters we lived with for so long that we see them almost as real. That if we were to walk down the street we’d recognise them in an instant in the crowd.

Therefore there will be a NEW Christmas Special released this year. Stay tuned for details!

If you’re unfamiliar with Post Marked: Piper’s Reach, drop into the website and introduce yourself to the characters.

Alice’s Adventures In Blackout Poetry

It’s funny how way leads on to way when it comes to creativity.

Last week I was chatting with Jodi (my writing co-conspirator) and she posed the question, “What would we do with the same page of text to create a poem?”

We think very differently in some respects when it comes to creativity. 

I tend to use the blackout/erasure method while Jodi has been utilising a cut and paste methodology. 

It’s different architectures for artistry. Jodi prefers the physicality of moving chunks of text to create and find meaning whereas I use the text as it is available, using the pieces to create the whole. It is physically passive whereas the cut and paste adds another physical, active dimension to creativity.

Simply different approaches to creating art.

Even in a brief discussion about creating these poems there are lessons to be learned; different approaches and different perspectives that can be translated into other creative areas. Take each creative activity as a learning experience. 

This is my contribution (I will arrange it into lines for easier reading):

the reason
time happens
is the young
know a proposal
every word a story
their names were
questions of the extraordinary

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You can see Jodi’s contribution over on her blog, Pursuing Parallels.

The Heart Is An Echo Chamber Release Day

Today The Heart Is An Echo Chamber is released. It is the companion to Jodi Cleghorn’s No Need to Reply.

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My story, “Untethering” is a response story to “Squeezebox.” Get both books and see what the authors have done with the original idea.

You can grab yourself a copy by heading over here.

The Heart Is An Echo Chamber Release Date

It has taken a little while but on August 10th I will have a new story coming out in Jodi Cleghorn’s collection, The Heart is An Echo Chamber.

My story, “Untethering” is a response story to “Squeezebox” from No Need to Reply.

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Follow the link below to get your hands on one or both of the books.

The Heart Is An Echo Chamber

New Publication – Untethering

 

Coming up at the end of May, my good friend and writing co-conspirator, Jodi Cleghorn, is releasing a companion volume to her collection of short stories “No Need to Reply.”

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The new volume is “The Heart Is An Echo Chamber” and it is a little different. It is different in that Jodi is not the author of this collection. In fact, it is a collection of writers responding to the stories from “No Need to Reply.”

The writers include Tom Dullemond, Kristen Erskine, Stacey Larner, Ben Payne, Lois Spangler, Helen Stubbs, Rus VanWestervelt and myself.

We each took a story from the original volume and reworked it, taking it to different places, from different angles, from different perspectives. 

 

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My story is “Untethering,” the companion piece to “Squeezebox.”

You can grab a copy of “No Need to Reply” here at the link before the new volume drops. If you want a physical copy, you can grab it for cheap. Ebook is Pay What You Want.

It will be published as a limited edition chapbook (hand numbered by Jodi) or you can grab the ebook.

If you’re in Brisbane, Australia, keep an eye out for the launch in late May.

Stay tuned and I’ll let you know when the new volume is released.

 

Asking Permission

IN the light of yesterday’s blog post about Jodi’s mentor program, she followed it up with a post about the fear of asking: Maybe I Was Only Then Becoming.

It is a remarkable insight into the creative mind and what fear can do to you when you’re a creative person. She references Amanda Palmer’s book, The Art of Asking. After reading the blog post, and hearing Amanda’s remarkable TED Talk from a few years ago, I need a copy. I’ll be putting it on my Christmas list and asking Santa nicely.

I can attest to how fear can be debilitating. I have been too afraid.

Too afraid to say ‘Yes.’

Too afraid to try.

Too afraid to fail.

Too afraid to believe.

Too afraid to ask.

Too afraid…

When we fear to ask we stand still, only to watch our shadows grow.

Mentorship Opportunity

My very good friend, writing collaborator and co-conspirator, Jodi Cleghorn (@JodiCleghorn) is offering a 12-week mentorship program for new and emerging writers.

If you are wanting to pursue writing then this is an opportunity to invest into your passion and start meeting your writing goals.

You can read Jodi’s account of how she came to this point, what she is offering and download the application form on her blog here: Mentorship and the Future Me.

I have known Jodi from my first writing days in 2009 when I stumbled upon Jodi and Paul Anderson’s website, Write Anything, and their weekly writing prompts. From there I gained her attention and was eventually asked to write for their site until it folded.

Jodi’s enthusiasm for new and emerging writers is unbridled; she was the person who offered me my very first publication in an anthology of new and emerging writers. She is dedicated to the emergence of new writers, taking them through the writer/editor relationship to hone and refine your work.

I am also blessed to have had the opportunity to write a novel with her, Post Marked: Piper’s Reach, which we are currently getting ready to shop around to agents and subs.

She is also a firm believer in the community of writers, helping to build connections between writers as a mix of support network, cheer squad, critiquing group, and beta readers.

I know she is looking forward to working with new writers, to help you realise your writing goals.

The cost of the mentorship is $250. For a 12-week program this is a remarkable investment into your writing life.

This opportunity is what you are looking for to set you on the right path. You will learn, grow in confidence and understand how and why it is what you do as a writer. Click the link below. You won’t regret it.

Mentorship and the Future Me.