Saturday, October 31, 2009

Did I give you a flight?

Sometimes the smallest frames hold the largest views. Incidentally, my daughter took this photograph - and many others as I was enjoying the view of the inside of a paper bag for most of the journey!

Fasten your seat belts. Could all passengers please remain seated whilst the aircraft is taking off and landing. Thank you.

I've been avoiding posting since I returned from my research trip to South Island - what, I hear you say, you were away? Well, here I am again and I have so much I want to share with you all about my trip, but so little I can, alas, as I want to stuff as much of what I have discovered into my novel as my plot allows for.

Please keep your seat belts fastened as we seem to be experiencing a little turbulence.

It's been peculiar, to say the least, being back in Auckland. I have a huge stack of reading material to get through, plus hundreds of photographs to label and scrutinise. I have maps and memoirs and, curiously, memories of my own to sift through and work out what is valuable to my story and what is merely of value to me.

This is your captain speaking, to notify you that we will be landing shortly. We are currently (bunch of numbers) high and with a wind speed of (bunch of numbers), I hope you have had a pleasant flight on behalf of Too Small for Sense and Comfort Airways and I wish you an enjoyable and safe remainder of your journey.

And I have to catch up on blogging and general real life as I know it.

Thank you for choosing to travel with us and I hope to see you all again soon.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What be lies

Time to get to the bottom of this table.
Fig.1 Barley twist table.
Fig.2. Barley twist table and baby grandma.

Thinking space.

Thinking space.

Figure this bare faced lie:

Figure 1. is my table. Figure 2. Is my grandma, but not my table.

Photographs suggest narratives which, like photographs, lie.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Give me a bug

Beetles, courtesy of The Auckland War Memorial Museum.

Bug hoover, courtesy of my daughter. Spider, discourteous! Note how many times the legs are folded at set junctures, thus seemingly smaller than in actuality, though not as large as in my fear-riddled mind!

Bugs: they really bug me!

I don't have a positive relationship with spiders. I am okay if I know they are there - unless they are larger than my thumbnail, or, in the case of the one pictured above, larger than my whole thumb with legs outstretched! - But it is the element of surprise which makes my nerves jangle and the hairs stand to attention on the back of my neck. This wee beastie (note humour used to diffuse fear) brushed against my little finger as I reached for a teaspoon off the sink drainer. I vomited. Don't worry, if you were thinking of popping in for tea and are now concerned abut hygeine - it went on the floor tiles and I bleached! Luckily, I had the bug hoover my daughter bought me for my birthday handy! It was difficult to suck it up - the spider probably weighed as much as the battery used to power the hoover! But the really strange part is, once I caught it, I had to look at it.

(I think it was only there because it was dying, otherwise I doubt it would have hung around long enough for me to lay my clammy hand to the bug catcher.)

It's similar to when you're watching a horror film and the unwitting victim is about to go into the darkened room where you know the evil bloodthirsty thingymebob is lurking in wait, and you shout "don't do it, don't go in - RUN!" And then they go in and get mutilated and you squirm and don't look, and tuck your knees in to your chest. That's me. And then I peek. I repeat this ridiculous behavioural sequence a non-sensicle number of times until I feel unafraid. But I don't touch the thing that I'm afraid of. That would be sick.

So I write about bugs. I find them fascinating. Beetles I find beautiful in their own many coloured intricate way. Spiders: "Know thine enemy"! I embrace my fear for the benefit of my writing.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Walking her shore

I apologise for the poor picture - it is the leaflet I was given to accompany the talk. The green background is my legs!

I have spent an afternoon crying, laughing and, generally, spell bound. Why? I went to a talk about a woman I had never heard of. But, I thought, if she warrants a talk, she must be worth finding out about, and she most certainly was!

Robin Hyde is the pen name of a very remarkable writer. She was a feminist at a time when it did not serve her career to be one, but more than this, she was a humanitarian.

I listened in awe for two and a bit hours and when Derek Challis, Robin's son, spoke (he knew her as mother, and by her real name of Iris, and she died when he was seven) I could not stop my tears from escaping.

It was also a celebration of her life and proof that she goes on living through her son's biography and through her words, which are as fresh and relevant today as they were in the 1930s. Particularly her thoughts on war.

Michele Leggott gave two readings: a poem of her own, named after one of Robin's, and a piece of prose poetry - what came from this experience was the overriding feeling of being in a room of creatively talented and strong people, strong women, and people, including the artists Annette Isbey and Margaret Lawlor-Bartlett, who were also in awe of a true pioneer.

I am not going to direct your reading to these individual pieces, I want you to go out and find out as much about her as you can, for yourselves. You will be inspired.

Apologies for the haphazardness of this post but I couldn't wait to share this with you!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Ex-kept in books

"But as I look at all the cherishable, unusual, unexpected and simply beautiful little books on my shelves, held...loved...written in...with flowers pressed, letters hidden and tears stained...I'm afraid the ebook will never match that!" James Mayhew's point - about those things we keep between the pages of our beloved books?

Here are just a few mementos I found in one of my cherished books of childhood.

"Don't jump off of the roof dad, you'll make a big hole in the yard. Mother's just planted petunias, the weeding and seeding was hard..."
This book now belongs to my daughter.

It is now a book of a cherished child, complete with her first drawing of a wolf! And that dark thing, in the margin - that's a little gem.
What are some of the beloved things you've kept in your books?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sir, prized I is

A funny thing happened to me the other day. I say funny because if I don't laugh I may get quite worried about it.

I emailed an agent and asked if he would be interested to take a look at my short fiction collection as well as my novel about memory. Hahahah.....silly me assumed he'd say thanks but no thanks - I've really been practicing my rejection acceptance, I no longer get excited when I see a letter with my name in my own handwriting, in fact, I'm so okay about my fiction being rejected that when he asked to see some of my writing it took a while for me to work out that it wasn't a rejection! And then I realised...I don't know how to submit a collection of short fiction!

I have spent the last two years working out how to write a synopsis for a novel! Now I realise I don't know how to present my short story collection.

I could view it as a novel in one loose sense but I want the distinction to be made that it is not a novel - it is a collection of short fiction - connected, inter-connected, cleverly linked, themed, but individual short stories as well. Every story in it works on its own - apart, aside from the others, and that, I think, is key. That is what makes the short fiction collection different from the chapters of a novel. I get really excited by both novels and short fiction, what I don't get excited about is people who view short fiction as the novel's poor relation. It's not.

I am proud to write short fiction. It is a completely different process for me than writing a novel.

If I were to write my novels as I do my short fiction, people's heads would explode - seriously - I'd make the headlines for completely the wrong reasons! People would be running from book stores screaming "I just cannot take any more! It is too much!"

Short fiction doesn't have the benefit a novel has of time to grow your appreciation. It has to grab you and hit you. We suffer, I think, as readers, through a lot of lacklustre prose in some novels because we have been wooed by a few chapters or glimmering moments, clever devices and such like, and we put our faith in the author that we will be rewarded for our perseverance substantially. Usually the characters develop enough that we care about them to see them through to the end regardless. Not always, but usually. Short fiction does everything a novel does but in a fraction of the time and page space. That is not something to turn your nose up at. That is a skill and, as someone who has spent a huge portion of my life to honing my own style and approach to the discipline, I can tell you it is not easy. Sure, short fiction is easy to start - ooh, I've got a great idea - but how many of those ideas actually get finished? I have dozens of almost rans, dozens! One day, I'll say, one day I will finish you, and what is more, you will know you have been finished. And that's it - that's what I love about short fiction. You get this feeling in your guts about a good short story and it stays with you, which, when you think about it, is testament to their power because it didn't take you a day, a week or whatever to read it, it didn't grow on you gradually, like a novel, it was there - strong and powerful, moving and devastating, elating and hilarious right from the first line and in every single line until the last. Now, show me a novel that does that!

So, you know I can write them, right? Anyone got any pointers on how to present them?

Oh, and while we're on the subject of what I don't know, does anyone know how to write a synopsis for a triptych?

And, before I forget - which I won't (but sometimes I do) - Mr Agent, Sir, my query and synopses will be with you shortly!

AAANND! For anyone still interested in the ongoing e-reader debate, here's some more news.

All I need to do is NOT PANIC! AAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrggggggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhh!

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Take note of this table. I sketched it sometime between 1989 - 1993. I will return to it.

Often I happen upon my stories by chance. I start off with an idea in mind and, intending to write about that, put pen to paper/fingers to type pad and come up with something completely different. Often in this instance means mostly every time! But those initial ideas don't go anywhere, they aren't lost, merely pending.

Today I thought I'd open the file and let you have a look at my most recent list of pending things to write:

Number 1:

My thanks go out to That Elusive Line

Also known as Thomas Taylor,
so hop to his blog where you can find

That Elusive writer and illustrator!

(Please don't start critiquing that as though it's a poem! Groan!)

Thomas has been hosting a wee devil on his blog to debate the pros and cons of the e-reader (don't make me say Kindle - aaaargh!), which is something the vibrant and verbose Donna Hosie has had a blog about, too. Which brings me round to,

Number 2:

"But as I look at all the cherishable, unusual, unexpected and simply beautiful little books on my shelves, held...loved...written in...with flowers pressed, letters hidden and tears stained...I'm afraid the ebook will never match that!"

Excellently put James Mayhew! I'm going to be doing a little post - at some point - about those things we keep between the pages of our beloved books. Thanks for the idea.

Number 3:

Now, remember that table? Here it is again. This time in a watercolour from 1992.

And I was reminded of this picture when I wrote this post.

It was merely the pile of laundry which triggered my memory. Memory is like that. I've written a novel about memory, and the title of that post, Family Are Rare, is also the title of my collection of short fiction. See how it all comes together?

Number 4:

And I'm writing about this table, but you'll have to wait for that! I will come back to it - eventually!