Thursday, April 29, 2010

Telly love

I don't have a television.  It's my daughter's fault.  I'd warned her that if we had another argument about turning the telly off, I'd get rid of it.  She argued; I called the neighbours.  After they'd taken my temperature, they took away the television, as well as the recordable DVD player and the thousand remote controls I never got the hang of in the first place (good luck with that, guys!)  My daughter has yet to forgive me, but let's face it, if you possess a computer connected to a broadband network, there's not too many reasons to grieve: all of the networks are showing their wares in cyberspace, even if the commercial ones show that irritating, non-fastforwardable ad at the beginning.  One downside: unless you get recommendations from others, you end up missing out on some cracker shows, simply because you're not aware of their existence.

So I've belatedly become a fan of Beautiful People (thanks Liz!) and Glee (yes, I was already switched on to Mad Men, thanks to Michael).  I adore tv that has witty dialogue and a serious edge (Six Feet Under's earlier series being the best example of both).  Glee veers pretty close to cheese sometimes, and Beautiful People to slapstick, but they are redeemed by the utter gorgeousness of the characters, even the hideous ones.  I also love the way both series deal with the hard yards involved in creative endeavours - and the w*nkers and poseurs who occasionally, and generally temporarily, flourish in artsy environments (the Tracey Emin pisstake on BP was brilliant). 

The reason I've actually had some time to indulge in screen is because I've had a week off the dayjob to talk to kids at Churchlands Senior High School and Penrhos College, and to finish rewriting V Girls.  I really enjoyed being back in schools again, observing the different atmosphere each one creates, the way teachers interact with their students and vice versa, and the social order that is visible even to a visiting writer.  And oh, how I loved the cerese couches at Penhros - even though they so entirely matched my top that if I'd sat down, I would have vanished (as A.J. so rightly pointed out). 

Back to rewriting (sigh).  Oh, but wait - isn't there an episode of Glee I've missed? Then I'll turn it off.  I promise.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The art of illusion

Maybe everyone in the world has seen this, except me, but it's great.  Almost as good as this.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A different story

Yesterday I met B, a bright seven-year-old with French-plaited hair and flowers painted on her fingernails.  She has been doing some writing with the help of a wonderful young woman called Imogen; I read her A Girl Who Fell Into A Book; Imogen read me the latest installment of B's Magic Faraway Tree-inspired story series.  A few years ago, B had a car accident, and she can't move independently, nor speak - not in the conventional sense, anyway.  She makes her feelings clear with extraordinary facial expressions and mouthed words, and there is no mistaking her pleasure or otherwise.  Seeing B, and all the other children where she lives, with disability of varying but generally profound severity, forcibly reminded me of how utterly vulnerable we humans are, but how irreducible the spirit.  And made me reflect on all the parents and carers of these kids, the love and compassion that is so abundant (and yes, I know there is heartbreak too, and grief).  I was reminded of a radio show I heard about the mentally ill in India, and how so many of them are taken care of by people who take notice, and provide them with food and clothing in a matter-of-fact way.  Ordinary angels.

Also, B reminded me of the power of story.  In real life, B can't run, or climb a tree, or swim under the water, but in her stories she can.  And does.  And relishes every moment - you can see it in her eyes.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

All hail arts organisations

I spent quite a bit of time working in and for writing and arts organisations back in the day, and am a proud member of the Australian Society of Authors, the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and others (and I will get my act together and join the Children's Book Council soon, I promise, Jan!).  I think it's important for emerging and established artists of any stripe to be involved in the community to which they belong, and besides which, arts organisations rely on volunteers and lowly paid workers to keep ticking over.  It's good to understand that art doesn't just appear/get published/hang in art galleries/appear on your tv screen - it's the end result of creative courses/ one-room advocacy organisations/ funding bodies/ lobbying etc, not to mention the 'invisible' folk like editors, publishers, producers and so on.  It's a long way from the Romantic notion of the individual starving artist, that's for sure.

Anyway, I'm about to step back into the ring, having been nominated for the Board of Management of writingwa, the Board of which I chaired when it was in its previous incarnation, the State Literature Centre.  Those of you interested in writing and reading in Western Australia know that we've got a swag of challenges on the table at the moment, not the least of which is ensuring the continuing funding of books in libraries and the support of writers and literature organisations in general.  So I'm looking forward to working with advocate extraordinaire Sharon Flindell to see what we can do to put writing front and centre in WA.  Watch this space!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

What I'm grateful for

Bad things have been happening to a lot of people I know lately.  It's hard to know what to do at such times, apart from send good thoughts to the afflicted people, and be grateful that at this moment, I have been spared the random awfulness of events.

In the spirit of Anita Heiss, then, I list the things I am grateful for today:

The crisp autumn weather, and the bed of newly planted leeks, onions, broad beans, spinach and broccoli that appreciate the gentle light;
The sleeping teenagers safely in their beds in the room next to me;
The fact that the Virginity Novel character rewrite is going well (well, is going!);
Some of my writing buddies had way too much fun at the Bologna Book Fair;
These two:

Sunday, April 4, 2010

A little oasis of time

As a full time employee, the joy of Easter is not about religious significance, although as a member of a family full of Catholics and having grown up with flurries of church attendance, I'm not altogether insensible to this. No, to me a clump of public holidays means some time to get some serious writing done.

This brings with it more or less equal portions of joy and pain. In relation to the first, the sheer joy of writing never leaves me: it is a kind of meditation, of time out from the clamour of obligation, of the pleasure of making stuff up, mind, world and fingers-on-keyboard mystically linked. The painful part is always: is it any good? Am I going to have to rewrite this (again)? Why couldn't I have written Tender Morsels? Or Liar? Or any other loved book that is already in book form?

The other thing about writing that dements me is how very much of it is made up of rewriting, mainly because I mostly fail to get a manuscript right in the first proper draft. The number of dead-ends and false starts/middles/ends I have unwittingly sent my plot/characters/novels down are legion. I like to think that this is because I am so pushed for time that I don't have time to hear the gears grinding (as Margo Lanagan wonderfully puts it) before it's too late and I've been foot to the floor all the way down the aforementioned cul de sacs until I skid to a halt in front of the wall I should have seen from the turnoff. But the truth is probably that this is a very annoying but apparently inevitable part of my writing process.

I mention this because I am rewriting holus bolus one of the characters from the virginity novel (as yet untitled - nothing quite fits yet. Any (more) suggestions?) As I said to the Bunbury ECU students I met a few weeks back, it's rare that I write a novel in which I don't start off by sending a character down the emotional salt mines, before realising that the narrative has disappeared down the same hole.

One day, I just might learn, and save myself a pile of grief. It's not looking likely.

On a more earthy note, we finally have some rain that is not in the form of flash flooding, or disguised as panel-denting hunks of hail. Reason for rejoicing indeed!