Thursday, 30 May 2013

Time Out Track

Went to Barbican on Tuesday night to see Iron & Wine. Friends who haven't been there before - "This is the future of gigs for us. Comfortable seats, great acoustics, people actually listening."

Read Maria Popova's 100 Ideas That Changed Architecture - like many of her posts I've bookmarked it to keep going back to when I'm writing about space and place.

Beautifully raw and loosely relevant to both, 'To Build A Home'

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Time Out Track... from America

Continuing going global with time out tracks, today it's a magical clip from Iron & Wine. The animation and stop motion effects will surely mean different things to different people, I see something new every time I watch it.

Maybe it will inspire some journeys into fantasy that you might not otherwise take?

I can't wait to see them next Tuesday at Barbican. Must listen to the new album, but for now, here's Joy.

Flying the nest

At different times every day - some days it’s before play lunch, sometimes it’s at the dinner table when mum’s making us sit straight and talk about our days, though dad’s never home in time - there’s something that I know is going to happen before it happens.

One afternoon Mr Bishop is explaining our writing exercise and I start before he’s finished speaking because I know that his twist is going to be, ‘And then… then you have to write the same story from the view of the other person.’ I already know that I’m going to write about going to the market to buy the packets of char sui rice for the family. I’m going to talk about how it makes me feel grown up, that I could cope on my own if I had to. And then I’m going to be the old Chinese man with the hairy chin mole who pats my blonde hair, like he still can’t believe it’s real, and gently pushes my shoulders so I sit on the little red stool and he arranges for a wedge of pineapple to be passed to me from the fruit lady at the next stall.

Unlike the rest of the class, who mostly fiddle with their pencils for a while before they start writing, it’s like I’ve already had hours to prepare.

One morning I mouth the words with Sarah, ‘My family is moving back to Australia. At the end of term.’ She’s focused on the ground and doesn’t see that I know a few seconds ahead of her giving me the bad news.

I never know when I’m going to know something before I should. I’ve stopped trying to tell anyone that it happens because they think I make stuff up.

I can fly.

I don’t do it every night but there’s enough times I’ve been up there to know how it feels.

Once when I tried to tell Sarah about it she cut me off to show me her new yy yonnex wooden racquet.

I swim laps in the pool every day, swim as far as my older brothers and their friends, and my mum and her friends always rub my towel on me when I get out and my hands are wrinkly and they pass me chicken satay and say I’m a big fish.

But I’m also a bird. I’m like one of those seaplanes, I can do air and water. I know I can’t do fire. But so far I’ve only been a night bird. Today my mum’s home early and I’m in the laundry room, holding the terrapins that are meant to stay in the plastic tank until the boys take them back to school. She says something to our amah and walks down the hallway towards our bedrooms. I imagine her checking my bedroom for me, maybe scowling a bit that I’m not at my desk doing my homework. Maybe she checks my brothers’ room in case I’m rifling through their Meccano again.

The Back Stairs are my only escape. I’ve only ever heard the gardener sweeping them and don’t know why we even have them if no one ever uses them. But I don’t want to get caught and I know that I can fly.

She comes back down the corridor, calling my name, and I dart up the stairs. I need to get high so that I can’t be seen out of the kitchen window. I go up to second floor.

Leaning over the wall that’s almost up to my shoulders I can see the green grass below, but I look further out to the forest where I often play cowboys and Indians.

I stand on the wall and then because I can fly, I know I can weave through the tops of the trees. I know how it will feel to tumble-turn in air, arms stretched sideways like Alan’s taught me to do at the end of laps, so I’m not scared when I climb up and wobble a little bit and I just lean forward so that I’m as horizontal as I can be before I step away from the height of the wall. I hear my mum call my name with a question mark because why on earth would I be up here and I see green and I haven’t been caught being naughty again and I can fly.

Written in response to Write Around Town exercise: 

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Time Out Track - Another Tale From Another English Town

With the excitement of the Fiction Uncovered 2013 titles, this week's Time Out Track has moved hemispheres to showcase a band from Newcastle, Lanterns On The Lake.

I often listen to their debut album when writing - here's their beautiful new video.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Time Out Track

Dan Sultan with a fabulous B&W tour of inner city Melbourne

Today's backing tune for writing a piece to submit to 'Stories For Homes'

Barnes & Hornby

A while ago I rather begrudgingly downloaded ‘The Sense of an Ending’. I didn’t know what it was about but it kept coming up as a recommended read. It was also on special. And I liked the title. I thought I’d give it a start and prove to myself that Barnes really wasn’t my sort of writer.

Confession: for some reason I now can’t trace the origin of, I had thought that Julian Barnes was a similar writer to Nick Hornby. (Living in Jen-land can have far worse results, like walking into a street sign a few weeks ago.)

Before I go any further, I am not in anyway criticising Nick Hornby. I’ve read a couple of his books and think he serves readers great stories that should be enjoyed. It’s just not the sort of thing I usually read. In fact ‘About A Boy’ is probably a rare example where I prefer the movie to the book. But I am a Toni Collette fan.
Anyway, back to my real point.
So ‘The Sense of an Ending’ was a double hit victory for me – not only a brilliant read, it completely exceeded my expectations.

I read ‘Levels of Life’ as soon it was released, this time knowing loosely what the book was about and of course expecting profoundly moving and artful prose. In an indulgent sitting of many cups of herbal tea, I relished the beautiful command of language, carefully balanced tone for handling difficult subjects honestly, and the skill to link stories to show the commonalities of love, and loss. This author’s place was firm on my list.

And then Mr Barnes surprised me again.
Yesterday morning, moving my wingback chair every half an hour or so to stay in the novelty of sunshine, I was laughing out loud reading ‘Pulse.’ The dinner parties at Joanna and Phil’s place are hilarious and awkward. These stories are mostly dialogue, free of any attribution. Underlying the old friends’ conversations – which cover Reagan, global warming, plastic testicles, marmalade, intromission, UK joining the Euro…to name a sample – are thoughts on relationships, between couples and friends, and getting older (not necessarily gracefully).
I wasn’t expecting to be laughing.
I see there are few longer stories later in the collection and wonder if I’m in for another surprising turn.

I'm actually quite glad that I'd confused Barnes and Hornby, though I'm not sure it's a common mistake, or necessarily one either of them would be amenable to. 

I wonder if anyone else has had a similar mistaken author identity with such wonderful results?

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Beginnings include the legacy of endings

That's the new opening line to a short story about relationships I submitted to the Bath competition. Well I think it is.

I do sincerely congratulate those on the longlist published at 10am last Saturday. I have to confess that at 10.02am, windswept and freezing overlooking Durdle Door on the Jurassic Coast and scanning the website on my iPhone, my sincerity would have been questionable.

After a 13 mile hilly walk and cider tasting in a local pub, I had much better perspective.

I turned to the judges' comments and other posts about why you are not a loser for not being longlisted.

Despite many, many rounds of drafting, feedback, submitting, redrafting, I realised that my story, in fact most of my stories, lack 'the hook' in the opening paragraphs.

Yesterday I mentioned this to a friend who is very familiar with my work. She thought for a moment, then said that my openings always set a tone that suits the story. That I might not necessarily grab the reader's attention, but I do create a sense of intrigue or tension that is compelling in its own way.

What I heard was that she didn't disagree.

As an exercise to test my openings, I've taken several stories out of my 'FINAL' folder and I'm working up a new 400 word opening for them. The Words With Jam First Page competition closes on 31st May, and I'm using that as motivation for this task.

It feels like an apt metaphor for a lot more than just relationships. Beginnings include the legacy of endings.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Time Out Track

I'm about to move into the sunny courtyard to write. Optimistic I know but so far I've only written 250 words and my morning target is 2,000. I have to try something.

Hopefully 2:30 mins of Saskwatch style can fire me up.

Enjoy a Time Out Track!