I have a scented candle which is called “Embracing the Chaos” (from the Relatable Candle Co) on my desk. I know. Tempting the fates. But chaos is a part of my own creative process and one with which I am comfortable. I have friends who would break out in hives at the thought of so much randomness. Don’t get me wrong, my pashminas are folded and sorted according to colour and my tax receipts were an accountant’s joy, filed according to month and year. But broadly speaking my life (and certainly aspects of my writing) is ruled by the powers of chaos. It is s fiery beast that burns and consumes and whips its tail through plans and expectations. So I’ve learned to let go and ride the dragon. Enough metaphors?
So how do you get anything done when nothing is nailed down? Ah ah. That is a trick question, because at the heart of every storm there is a quiet core (I know I promised no more metaphors, but hey … chaos). This is the core that you need to cultivate to keep your life, and anything that fits into your life, going. It’s very hard to remember that quiet source of strength when the winds are howling, but it’s a practice thing. Like going to the gym (I went to one once when lycra and head bands were a thing) or playing an instrument. The more times you return to the quiet centre, the more times you remember the pathway – just like muscle memory. Yeah, the chaos gets to me, especially on days when my time is squeezed tight by other people’s needs. But I have that haven, even if on some days just knowing it’s there is as close as I get.
Sometimes the best thing we can do is bunker down and let the storm howl. I don’t agree with Macbeth that life is an idiot’s tale “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”. I may be an idiot and my life is oft times filled with sound and fury (some of it my own) but it does not signify nothing. Life is filled with the best you can do, for now, with what you have. You built a sandcastle and the tide washes it away (or some idiot keeps kicking it down until you hide a huge rock in it … ahem, a story for another time). But you did build the damn sandcastle. It was a thing that you did. You did the best you could with the resources to hand. Bravo. Well done.
That’s what I like about writers in general, they’re willingness to create supportive groups. Tolerating, and even striving to understand, each other’s differences and celebrating each other’s wins (we’re not going to talk about the twinges of envy - rise above it). A willingness to applaud the efforts of others and the harder task of learning to applaud ourselves. We all do the best we can, with what we’ve got. Bravo!
So chaos … from the fury is born art.
Photo from shelby-cohron-a4W1kvrMGXs-unsplash.jpg
I haven't mentioned 2020 despite it being a singularly needy sort of year. These are the sorts of times when you do reflect on life, whether you wish to or not.
Ironically I have managed to be published in an anthology with the theme of lighthouses. So all of the sentinel's metaphors of loneliness, sacrifice, endurance and introspection are entirely appropriate for the times. But my story is about love.
You could argue that there are weightier matters in the world to consider beside tales of whimsy or love, and you would be right. But we do not toil unslumbering through the rotations of our small planet, nor do we lie undreaming through its nights. Stories feed our minds and souls.
There have been a lot of anthologies this year, just in my small patch of world. A short story is the perfect thing to read. Long enough to unplug the world's noise, but short enough to justify a claim on our limited time. So, book, tea, reading. What could be more perfect in our imperfect world?
(Thank you Unslash phtotgrapher Garrick Sangil.)
I've been an editor for a long time and I'll be the first to tell you it can be a bit tough on everyone. But having someone edit my work is a joy to me. This week I'm starting the first round of my own edits on a sequel, re-working a finished book for re-release, tinkering with a manuscript that's done, done, done... and responding to edits on a short story I've written for an anthology. Yeah... pretty heavy editing week.
In some ways editing is a restful break from the pressure of creative writing. Whereas the creative mind needs that energy to make intuitive leaps, spark new directions, make marks on a trackless plain, editing requires a calm centre and deep focus.
My process always requires a first read before I edit. Not always an easy ask if you're on a timetable, but I try. Early this year I finished editing a 120,000 word science fiction manuscript which I'd seen at various stages over two years. Okay, it was a labour of love, but even so, the single most important tenet still held, did I connect with the author? As an editor I have to be constantly conscious of the author's voice. I must not change or alter the flavour or tone of that voice. Although there was major structural editing required in the science fiction manuscript, my job stopped where I saw the edge of the plot hole. It was up to the author to figure out how to bridge that gap. That's not to say we didn't have some interesting discussions about direction and what was working and what wasn't. The joys of being on the same wavelength.
So when choosing an editor for myself, that's the first thing I look for... are we a good 'fit'? I have high hopes for my short story. If the fit is good, then you don't despair when you see the field of yellow highlighting (or red pen, or margins of comment boxes), it means growth and opportunity. Embrace the change(s).
PS The 'funs' in title is a joke and 'fun'.
PPS I write Australian English hence 'flavour' and 'centre'.
Image by Stocksnap on Pixabay
Been away from home for the last few weeks, only a short distance but far enough to note the change in visitors. I had a flock of hoodlum Sulphur-crested cockatoos shout their way across the blue sky on two days. I admit I preferred their noise to the small helicopter that passed through their flight path shortly after. Somehow their noisy flight didn’t feel like trespass.
Back home, last week briefly, when I was called outside by the screech of a pair of Rainbow Lorikeets. It was not their screech in particular that made me go out, but the loud song of a currawong and the bully caw of our crows. Sure enough the big predators were after a lorikeet sandwich. Well, it's a bird-eat-bird world out there, but not today boys. The big birds had boxed in the lorikeets in the foliage of the Tulip Tree, which had attracted the parrots with a few blossoming flowers in the upper canopy. My big human presence sent the ever cautious currawongs and crows off and the lorikeets kept right on screeching as they ripped the flowers apart while giving me the evil eye. Never let a bit of life threatening danger stop a good feed. I never said lorikeets were cute. Pretty yes; cute, no. They are an aggressive species and will out compete native birds in bushland. Anyway, that day they lived to screech another day.
I remember hand feeding lorikeets a honey and water solution from plates at Currumbin wildlife sanctuary down the Gold Coast—a big tourist draw. I assume they still do it. Lorikeets have a feathered tongue and are nectar feeders, so imagine the surprise of biologists when they observed them feeding on insects. Just goes to show, humans don’t know everything. Anyway last week's pair of lorikeets dodged being eaten for the time being. They'll be back to finish off the flowers before the honeyeaters get a chance. If they didn't make so much noise I'd probably not have even noticed them in their green feathers high among the leaves. Maybe the crows would have missed them too.
(Thanks to Pexels Victoria Mangano for the photo of the Rainbow Lorikeet)
Well, here we are, basking on a warm day in winter. Pleasant, but slightly alarming when contemplating the Summer to come. Yet there is no reason to despair. I was reading an article in Vox by Mary Annaïse Heglar. Her impassioned call is to not give up. Not be overwhelmed by the changes to our Earth, to our future.
Every action counts. But don't just stop there with your own actions. Keep demanding systematic change too.
Tomorrow is today's promise - we can choose hope.
We can choose hope today. So enjoy the sunshine, buy less plastic, sign petitions, have conversations. Do all those things you do.
Just don't give up.
[Thank you Pinakeen Bhatt and Unsplash for the photo]
This morning the sky is blue, cold and fresh. The world is crisp and rustling with a wind that robs the sunshine of its warmth. It is a new day and all things seem possible. The sky paints hope with white clouds and the branches of trees reach up to touch the message. We have to keep hope, for without hope we shall never find the courage or strength to face today, tomorrow and all our tomorrows.
A small dancing troupe of pink twirls up the orchid spike. Their pretty unscented frocks speckled in earthy browns. Cherub faced, chubby cheeked, they peek and play between the long green shadows, untroubled by grand visions, their small alien bodies smiling at the silver sunlight. Then one stops its happy bob. Snapped alert, it holds motionless, its awkward face stares at me. I have been noticed - the stranger in their garden. Now discovered, I cannot look away. We stare at each other - we have a silent conversation full of questions without answers. How grotesque your features, how short your life, how fragile - we both think. Then the breeze calls it back to play and the link is broken. I am forgotten - just another shadow, left behind to my noisy cast of sunshine and the well explained.
There were a few interviews and spots in the February launch of The Soldier's Woman. I shared them dutifully on social media but failed to add them on here, a fact I am trying to remedy. I find dealing with Facebook like dealing with a toddler, it has a short attention span, messes up your things when you aren't looking and you have to be careful not to put anything too hot or spicy within its reach. I'll put up things as I find and remember where I put them last. Trying to get back to book 2 in the Bladewood Legacy, but have been distracted by community theatre (not acting, faffing about with costumes even though I'm not a seamstress) and my 'day job' convening the biannual Sustainability Day charity event (a labour of love). Words are bouncing about in the old brain but not anything worth writing down yet.
With abandon the tree in our yard has dropped its round yellow leaves to paint the grass in Monet dapples. After rain and damp the wind has brought Autumn. The ground, still so smugly brown and soft, has loosed the dry life of seed and root. In chaotic joy all underfoot the green spears and jostles aside the yellow. Here, where we live long months under the heavy fist of Summer, the change is delightful. Brief, transient clear and perfect as the moment before the mirror pool ripples. The fallen leaves are already crisping brown. The Autumn light laughs between the mellow leaves, cool and light, warming itself in the bright sun. But the warm day has halted the tree’s leaf fall. Hesitant, it holds its half-shed canopy like a dressing gown on a startled bather. Is the season on the change or not?
I was interviewed in February by Teresa Smith for the new Sunday Spotlight author A&Q on the Australian Women Writers Challenge page. A site responding to the question "Are male authors more likely to have their books reviewed in influential newspapers, magazines and literary journals than female authors?". Well, yes. Hence the site. Visit their page at australianwomenwriters.com/about-2/background-to-challenge/ for more details on who they are and how to join.
There were a few challenging questions I can tell you, like
Q: How has being Australian AND a woman impacted on your writing and/or writing career? or
Q: Have you ever had to deal with a situation where someone feels they recognise traits of themselves in one of your characters? or
Q: If you could sit down for an afternoon with an iconic person from history, who would you choose to spend that time with?
For the full interview and my (well considered) answers visit australianwomenwriters.com/2017/02/sunday-spotlight/
Thank you Australian Women Writers Challenge for the opportunity and for being the first of your Sunday Spotlight authors.
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Tea-drinker, writer and editor. Ecologist, environmental scientist, futurist and student of irony.