Tag Archives: Writing

Growing People, Plants & Novels

A grainy picture of flowersDear Blogosphere,

It’s been far too long. I won’t regale you with tails of woe and excuses as to why I haven’t written for the better part of a year. Let’s just put it down to the following, logical, equation:

Family + IVF + Pregnancy + Work + Uni + NaNoWriMo + Maintaining Sanity = Something’s Gotta Give.

You, my dear bloggy space, were de-prioritised.

But, let’s not dwell. Let’s move into a new season – one that will hopefully include more blog posts, but will DEFINITELY include: NaNoWriMo, a feat I am loving; Stephen King novels; Christmas; births and birthdays! Lots of wonderful happenings to enjoy!

Whilst I’ve been growing a person, eating my weight in dry biscuits and writing essays, I have managed to read a few books. I finally finished Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 – an interesting story, though if it weren’t for the sheer size of the thing, I’m not sure I would have hung in there. That doesn’t sound right, I know, but once you’ve committed so many hours of your life, there doesn’t seem to be an Exit Stage Left anymore. The only way out is through. In this case, it was worth it for the simple fact that the world Murakami paints is interesting and I enjoy his quirky writing, though the story wouldn’t make my top 10 and I’m pretty sure I’m disappointed in the ending (though I’m still percolating on that). I’d be interested to hear what anyone thinks of 1Q84?

I’ve also passed the time with some great authors who weave a good yarn. Tom Clancy (rest in peace), Patricia Cornwell and John Le Carre to name a few. I’ve been looking forward to getting into SK’s Joyland and Dr. Sleep, but have been savouring those until I can really sit down and enjoy them. Watch this Space.

You may recall a post in which I talk about my life-long desire to write. Well, I’ve taken the plunge and delved head first into NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. I’ve never participated before, but am really excited to be giving it a bash. For some reason, I have this crazy notion that being forced to sit down and write 50,000 words in one month will somehow forge an innate connection to Stephen King. Haha, stalker much? “Cray cray” as the hipsters say? I’m heading down that track, I know, but it’s true! I have loved his books for so long and they have been such a huge part of my reading life, to be writing one of my own does feel like something of a tribute.

Finally, my world has consisted of some fairly intensive gardening. I once started a blog called “Sheco Blog” FYI it no longer exists, but was meant to document my escapades of seeking a more sustainable lifestyle. Well, Shecoblog or not, H and I have been foraging our way through this new terrain, slowly trying to figure out what it means to live a more environmentally friendly lifestyle – and how to do it. It’s slow going, but lots of fun. I’d like to keep you posted on that stuff, it’s a big part of our lives.

Well, thanks dear readers. It’s so great to have the head space to blog again. I hope I can keep it up!

Shan

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Dear Virginia Woolf,

Virigina Woolf

 

Dear Virginia Woolf,

Greetings and salutations from the warm summer months of the year 2013. I am writing to discuss with you a rather personal matter – that of my 2012 Reading Goals, in which I did you a terrible disservice, dear Virginia.

Having been deceased these past 72 years, you are most likely unaware of
my resolution to read five of your works throughout the year of 2012. An honourable, realistic challenge, one would surmise. I had other reading goals, of course which I won’t discuss here, but am pleased to have achieved them – more or less .

As I reflect on my reading year gone by, I am filled with a sadness. And, something else, perhaps it is regret. You see, Virginia, my real failure, my greatest reading mistake was to leave my Woolf goal too late. I spent most of the year assuring myself that Time, devious as she is, was on my side. I was wrong, of course, as one often is in a head-to-head against Time. October appeared out of nowhere, tearing her way through my front door and into my life, underdressed, uninvited and without apology before I had read any of your novels.

All I could do was begin. I chose to read Mrs. Dalloway – and what a wonderful choice it was.

I had previously thought that streams-of-consciousness writing was not really my style, finding it a tad uncomfortable to read. However, the day of Clarissa Dalloway’s party was, what is the word? Entrancing. At times I was lost, wondering who or what was being described and how I’d arrived there. At other moments, I found myself swimming in the text, drinking in the way each word, considered with care and lyricism, knitted into narrative. I enjoyed drifting in and out of the minds of several characters, all preparing for the party at Clarissa’s house, all submerged in their own private worlds, with private thoughts and longings. It was a sadly-beautiful experience, if you understand what I mean. I was most confronted by the storyline of a man mid-battle for the remaining shreds of his sanity. In fact, I wonder how it came to be that you should have such an understanding of mental health issues? What had your experience of it been?

Dear Virginia, I found your writing excquisite, delicate yet robust, honest and unapologetic. I loved it, I adored it. But, it was not something I could so easily submerge myself in again so quickly.

I realised that to rush through another four of your novels would:
a/ probably not be possible given the late hour at which I had started my task; and
b/ would be disrespectful. Your novels require something, don’t they? Not just the usual sacrifice of time, laid willingly at the altar of Art by any lover of books. No, your writing requires an investment of another kind. Emotional safety, perhaps. You burrow deep, and deep you must burrow. Into the depths of humanity, into the soul, into what it means to exist and co-exist with others, relating, feeling, experiencing life in the shades granted by context and time.

So, given the above reasoning, I chose not to burl through four more Virginia Woolf works. Thus, I did not complete my reading goal and more importantly, I underestimated you, I underestimated what your writing would cost me – and what it was worth.

For that, I am deeply sorry.

I am so very grateful to have been acquainted with you through your writing, Virginia Woolf. I will read more of your works in future. I will not declare a number, nor will I vow to a timeline, but I need not do so – it’s not within my power to resist the gentle call of your prose. I look forward to where it will take me, and who I will encounter along the way.

Until our next meeting.

Your Reader,

Shan

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2013 Australian Women Writers Challenge

awwbadge_2013In 2012, I endeavoured to become more acquainted with Australian literature. This year, I have taken one step further and signed up for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2013.

Born from the outcry against the gender bias that sees male Australian authors more likely to be read and reviewed than female, the challenge was established to “support and promote books by Australian Women”. Fair play.

So, my challenge is this: I have entered in at the Stella stage. I will read four books  written by Australian women and will review three. 

This is a great challenge, as it will not only broaden my literary education, but will force me to stretch my reviewer legs, which is a challenge I could do with.

So, where will I find these elusive women writers, you ask? Good question. The AWW do have a couple of pages on writers from diverse backgrounds, such as Indigenous and Asian-Australian. As good a place to start as any, I reckon.

Anyone want to join me?

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On Writing, Living & Legitimising Expletives

At age 12 I swore I would be a writer.

I would pen the next great novel sitting at my desk by the window, fireplace crackling nearby, bookshelves inquiring over me. Teacups and teapots would be scattered across my workspace like a legion of colonial ships, preparing the rape of a newfound, ancient land. I would write, and if the ghosts of literature’s past weren’t too heavy and intimidating, I would write well. I would write and I would say “fuck” a lot, because it was an artistic right not often afforded to 12 year olds. I would be a writer.

teapot

After a few attempts at quasi crime/ supernatural thriller in which the protagonist says “fuck” a lot, I thought, at the valiant age of 12, perhaps what I needed was some life experience. Then I could be a writer, then I would have something to say, then I would have earned my artistic credentials to say “fuck” a lot. Yes, I would have some life experiences. I would wait to write.

So I waited. And I waited. Time went by. I managed to finish high school (if you knew me at the time & my proclivity for self-destruction, you will understand the wonderment associated with me completing VCE). I had one or two dramatic religious conversions. I fell in and out of love, though in hindsight, it could have been “daddy-issues inspired co-dependence”, or a heavy mixture of both. An alleged sister popped up out of the wind like an episode of The O.C., sticking around just long enough to ensure the maximum emotional damage was achieved before disappearing into genetic mis-matched oblivion. I lived in China. I lived in China. I gave myself time to scoop up as many pieces of my shattered heart and dreams before carrying them home to Oz. I found myself pregnant. I found myself pregnant, alone, with a new sense of purpose and zeal for life. I entered the world of single mum-dom: a sacred, difficult, sorely misunderstood place. I almost died. My son was almost orphaned only minutes after he entered the world. My knight in shining armour did come along, riding an unfinished EH to carry me over the threshold of the warrantee-free contractual relationship that is marriage, with a bonus 30 year mortgage. Together, we are building a life. Together, we are learning about the rabbit hole that is IVF. Together, we laugh. Together, we negotiate the emotional terrain that comes with marriage, with friendship, with life. I have experienced deep shades of community and support that have forever impacted my perception of faith, humanity and community. I’m completing post-grad studies. I read. I read a lot, and then I read some more.

I wait. Almost 30, I wait to write.

I wish I could go back and tell the valiant 12 year old not to wait for life to happen. To just write. Write, write, write. Write quasi preternatural- thrillers with no real plot & weak characters whose only contribution to the narrative is the creative use of profanities. Write badly, write bloody. Just write.

Now, 18 years later, I start all over again. I no longer aspire to pen the next great novel, but the bookshelves inquire, the fireplace exists, teacups are scattered and teapots are ready to conquer the new creative space. The backlog of pent up emotion and experience is ready to be exploited in the name of art. Now, I just need to find the balls and make the time to write. Write, write, write. Write badly, write bloody, but for fuck’s sake, just write.

colonising teapot

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Quote: Stephen King wants your attention

I’m a confrontational writer. I want to be in your face. I want to get into your space. I want to get within kissing distance, hugging distance, choking distance, punching distance. Call it whatever you want. But I want your attention.
– Stephen King

washingtonpost.com

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December 9, 2012 · 11:22 am

Non-poet seeks poet friends for haiku lessons. Please enquire within.

Haikus are beautiful, aren’t they? I’m of the opinion that beautiful things are definitely worth trying.

Want to help? I think I’ll need some, and its much more fun doing it with others.

My basic understanding is that haikus depict a scene within three lines of 5-7-5 syllables, often including a seasonal reference. Hmmm, that sounds suspiciously simple… I guess I’ll find out soon!

OK, here goes.

Oceans
Source: author

.

Little explorer

discovers vast, silent seas.

Summer’s here, my dear.

.

Ouch, that’s trickier than I thought! I was right to be suspicious, it’s not that easy to fit all you want to say into 5-7-5 syllables!

So, how did my first attempt go? Suggestions, comments, reflections welcome.

How would you do it? I’d love to hear other people’s interpretations of the image above.

I wonder, do haikus ever stray from the 5-7-5 rule or is it quite strict? Is there more to a haiku than what I mentioned above?

Cheers,

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Very Inspiring Blogger Award Nomination

Hey, guess what?!!

Dear Stephen King, has been nominated for the ‘Very Inspiring Blogger’ award. Wow, what a milestone! Thanks to The Jenny Mac Book Blog  for my first blogging nomination, it is SO FREAKIN COOL!

I love these awards, they are a nice way to showcase other blogs and build up the blogging community, don’t you think?

OK, so there are some responsibilities that come with this nomination, let’s not forget.

Rules of Participation:

1. Display the award logo on your blog.

2. Link back to the person who nominated you.

3. State 7 things about yourself.

4. Nominate 15 other bloggers for this award and link to them.

5. Notify those bloggers of the nomination and the award’s requirements.

7 Things about myself:

1. I love to read, it’s my favourite thing.

2. My all time favourite TV show is M*A*S*H.

3. I tried really hard to fall in love with Jennifer Egan through her debut ‘The Invisible Circus’, but was sadly disappointed. Though I haven’t given up, I have ‘A Visit From the Goon Squad’ and I hope it will rock my world..

4. I work in Community Development and have co-created a local community project for mums, called Motherhood Unmasked.

5. My favourite colour is green, or red. Sometimes blue.

6. I’m currently reading Murakami’s ‘IQ84’; Virginia Woolf’s ‘Mrs Dalloway’ and ‘A Room of One’s Own’.

7. I have chickens and fruit trees – life is good 🙂

OK, my nominees for Very Inspiring Blogger are:

1.  I AM A PALINDROME http://palindromeiam.wordpress.com/

2.  Melbourne Pub Culture http://melbournepubculture.com/

3. Madam Inside Out http://madaminsideout.wordpress.com/

4. Poppy Fox http://www.poppyfoxathome.com/

5. Wanderlust http://morealtitude.wordpress.com/

6. Peas and Cougars http://peasandcougars.com/

7. The Rowdy Chowgirl http://rowdychowgirl.com/

8. Hovercraft Doggy http://hovercraftdoggy.com/

9. Bigwords http://www.bigwordsblog.com

10.101 Books http://101books.net/

11. Silver Poetry http://silverpoetry.wordpress.com/

12. Meet Me At Mikes http://meetmeatmikes.com/

13. Tough Little Birds  http://toughlittlebirds.com/

14. The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say “Shhh” http://busyteacher.wordpress.com/

15. A Little Blog of Books and Other Stuff http://alittleblogofbooks.wordpress.com/

Thanks you guys for your creativity, energy and inspiration.

Cheers!

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Five Kings

I could read my favourite Stephen King books over and over and over again until the end of time. So, one of my reading goals for 2012 was to read 5 Stephen King books I’ve never read before. I’m happy to say that this has been achieved! I read 5 new Kings, and man, it should become an annual policy.

Here’s what I read:

On Writing (1999)

Source: StephenKing.com

It’s great to read about your favourite author. I’ll admit, there were times when the approach of just plonk on paper any random memory in no order and call it a memoir was a tad irritating, but I  still enjoyed reading the bits and bobs that made SK the writer he is today.

The second half of the book that addresses the craft of writing was excellent. Definitely a great read if you are interested in Stephen King and / or the craft of writing.

Verdict – 6/10

Bag of Bones (1998)

Source: StephenKing.com

Bag Of Bones is a great modern gothic story. After the death of his wife, author Mike Noonan returns to their cabin on the lake, ‘Sara Laughs’ and finds himself in the midst of an extraordinary battle between the living, the dead, and one little girl he must protect. I really enjoyed the sensory aspect of this book, which may have been heightened because of the audiobook format. The gothic elements were a wonderful: location, wild weather, supernatural events, the sound of loons crying on the lake. In fact, that phrase ‘a loon cried on the lake’ is repeated so often during tense moments, that every time I heard it a little shiver ran down my back, keeping me on my toes throughout the story.

The novel contains all the makings of a good King: great characters, an interesting plot, a sprinkling of cool genre and literary devices, not to mention the irony of SK having written Bag Of Bones from the perspective of an author way below his calibre = an ‘I-can’t-put-this-down’ type book… my favourite kind. Yes, definately a good read.

7/10.

11.22.63 (2011)

Source: StephenKing.com

If you’ve read my post ‘11.22.63‘, you know I loved this book. Damn it was good. I’d love to read it again next year and see if the second time round is just as good!

8/10

Full Dark, No Stars (2010)

Source: StephenKing.com

Full Dark, No Stars is a collection of short stories that are more like character studies. And, well, they’re quite dark. Ultimately, each story explores the circumstancial and psychological factors that combine to make a ‘normal’ person decide to murder someone else. It was pretty heavy at times, particularly as it focussed on the darker shades of humanity rather than monsters lurking in the closet.

What is also interesting is the response I had as a reader – there were some scenarios in which I identified with the protagonist and was barracking for them as they went on their rampage of revenge. Other scenarios made me feel sick. I imagine this variety of responses evoked by the stories was intentional.

I have to add that there were a couple of moments where the writing felt a bit like fan fiction, but ultimately it was a good collection. I’m glad I read it.

I’d be interested to know what other people thought. 6/10.

Hearts in Atlantis (1999)

Source: StephenKing.com

Hearts in Atlantis is a collection of short stories that follow a loosely connected group of characters beginning in 1960. One character who gets a mention in all stories is Carol Gerber – though she’s never the main protagonist or narrator. I realised at the end that I’d learned more about the journey of Carol’s life then that of any of the others though she is peripheral through much of it. Clever. But Hearts in Atlantis is not primarily about Carol Gerber. The collection is compiled of a series of stories bookended with Bobby Garfield in 1960 as an 11 year old kid, and Bobby returning home in 1999 (incidentally, these stories are a nice little plug for the Dark Tower series). The Vietnam war plays a major role in the stories, as the protagonists continue to battle through life long after the war has ended.

Great read. 7/10

A word on time:  

So, here are the five Kings I read this year. One thing I noticed through all of them is how SK plays with time. ‘Bag of Bones’ deals with historical events that affect the protagonist’s past and present. ‘Hearts in Atlantis’ follows a timestream for a group of people loosely connected and how their lives spin off in different directions like a spinning top. ‘11.22.63’ explores the concept of time travel and changing history, even ‘On Writing’ plays with time in examining some of the building blocks of SK’s life.

What was my favourite new King you ask? The jewel on the King’s crown?

They were all interesting and captivating in their own ways. I really loved Bag of Bones, but 11.22.63 will have to be the number one King that I read this year, mainly for the emotional response I had to the book, it was such a great story.

What do you think?

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Tea & Sluggish Company

I seem to have a knack for ending up in literary dialogues with insects and inanimate objects.

Oh it starts off awkward and uncomfortable – conversations with insects and inanimate objects don’t come that naturally to me. But a pot of Earl Grey and the topic of books will nail it – every time. After two cups of tea time, location and apparently species are forgotten as we explore the colours and shades of the literary world.

This evening, my cohort was Mugg, a pink slug who lives in my garden. I happened across her as she was trekking the long journey towards the book-lined walls of our study.

Mugg

She wore a small pair of glasses perched on the edge of what might have been her nose, though I’m not too familiar with slug anatomy. Bags lined her preoccupied eyes and she carried a small purse. I had a moment to wonder whether it was filled with the same kind of non-essentials I walked out of the house with: my son’s racing cars, orchards of apples, used tissues and a book, of course, always a book. I thought it would be impolite to ask.

She wore the determined look of a woman on a mission – I recognised the look immediately as I’m sure its an expression H has seen cross my face many times: a ferocity that said The only damn thing I’m doing tonight is reading my book! I liked her.

Ordinarily, I might have ignored a bright pink slug wearing blue glasses on the wall and gone about the business of reading my book. But i’d just finished reading 11.22.63 and needed desperately to debrief! So I offered her assistance in getting to the study, to which she was grateful (at her rate it seemed she’d take a few days). Mugg directed me to place her on the shelf that housed my ‘classics’ collection. She’s got good taste, I thought. When I learned she’d never read Jane Austen, I almost knocked her off the shelf. “What?! Every woman needs to read an Austen!” I handed her Sense and Sensibility. She accepted, laughing.

Our conversations led us back to the kitchen where a brew of Earl Grey awaited. We enjoyed a delightful little chatter about our latest reads. Obviously I chewed her ear off about 11.22.63 – she’s never read any Stephen King, but I think I had her convinced to give him a try:) (I’ll share some reflections on 11.22.63 shortly). I’d never heard of the slug authors Mugg mentioned, in fact I was embarressed to say that I didn’t know slugs were authors! Apparently there are many. Mugg’s favourites are Begg Mulosc, who wrote a series about a young slug who befriended a butterfly, much to the chagrin of her slug community, and Ligg Millow, apparently a great feminist slug who opened my new friend’s eyes to gender inequality in the slug home. Fascinating! I was very interested to know more about this slug world I’d never considered before. Mugg promised to return with some books that she would translate for me, as long as I provided a nice hot cuppa. I could definitely do that.

It’s not always the case that I enjoy book banter with insects – my previous encounter with Scout the wasp was horrific, but Mugg was pleasant, a good listener and fascinating to chat with.

‘Twas nice to make a new friend.

Your Reader,

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Poetry by Penny V

Wedding Venue outdoor courtyard

Love has sprung, as if from nothing
we are here for the miracles we’ve seen
a Great Wall, an Ocean
Oh, the places we’ve been!

And now, here is home
right here it turns out
across time, dear, hold tight to me
love has sprung as if from nothing

rapping in rhythm, tip tap
we match
our colours, our maps
our wrapping around technique

your bones, your teeth, i know them
your smell, your skin, i’m in
love, like sprung from nothing
we are here for the miracles we’ve seen

– Penny Vassiliades

This poem was written for our wedding ceremony. Thanks Pen.

Happy Anniversary H x

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