Life gets in the way (that’s OK)

I know a lot of artists who hate the idea that life gets in the way of their art. But I have to be honest with you. That whole life thing that’s tearing up your perfectly planned writing time and goals… that’s OK with me.

I’m not saying I don’t get frustrated. There is some sort of energy right now – possibly the end of the year, when I’m trying to look back and make sense of the last twelve months – when I’m hoping it all meant something in the grand scheme of things.

And when I talk about the grand scheme of things, I’m usually talking about the three to four things I wanted from the year.

But if your whole life is angled at shutting yourself away form the world so you can write, I think you’re doing it wrong. I won’t necessarily say it to you but I’m thinking it.

I’m currently trying to convince some younger folk that this writing journey includes time for boring things like earning money or mending relationships or just being boring-old-lost and trying different things to find what’s meaningful and exciting.

Focusing on something other than writing doesn’t mean you’ve given up, it means you’re alive. It’s giving you more experience to write about. I  mean, how can you write about the world you live in if you don’t engage with it? It’s not sexy but it’s true.

So maybe this Christmas and New Year you can give yourself a break. Do morning pages for a week and write absolute dribble or fill the well by visiting museums, colouring-in, watching new movies and reading new books.

Get out in to the world and take a break. Remember why you love stories. Rediscover what sets your heart on fire. Have some damn fun. That’s what being an artist is all about.

Fictional blood and fun times

I think I’m a nice person, but show me a TV show where someone gets killed in the first five minutes and I’m hooked.

Alfred Hitchcock photo with bird on cigar

Image: from quoteswave.com

Murder mysteries are an obsession passed down from my mum, who educated me through English TV shows and movies about Miss Marple, Poirot, and – hell yes – Murder She Wrote. (Did you hear there’s a Murder She Wrote game? I hope it has the theme music.) And of course, there was not just Hitchcock’s films but Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Later in Primary School I chowed down battered copies of Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden books. (Which, honestly, is only the tiniest insight to how 50s and 60s my childhood culture upbringing was.)

Then to fossicking for my own crime books through a series called Point Crime, with titles written by various authors but all with horrific – and captivatingly creative – murders. (Someone got suffocated/buried in their own concrete driveway before it had set. Come on!)

Even now, if I’m having a particularly rough week, I’m probably watching my Wire in the Blood box set rather than Monty Python.

And yes, I realize how weird that is.

But it’s not the violence that interests me, it’s the psychology behind it. How someone like me or you can be driven to murder. What are the circumstances that make it a reasonable act? What could drive someone to hate another person so much that they could torture them? And how often the crime is committed by family or someone the victim loves.

So I’ve settled on a new book to write, and if you haven’t already guessed the theme let’s just say that I’m going to have some fictional blood on my hands over the next few months. I might even figure out why a kinda nice person like me becomes so obsessed with reading and watching murder mysteries.

When I have some inspirational pics for you, I’ll post them on the blog.

Wish me luck. As always, with every new story idea, I’m crazy excited about this one!

Christmas and creativity

December is my favourite time of year. It’s all Christmas baking (and yeah, eating), non-stop catch-ups with friends and driving past decorated houses that would make Clark Griswold proud. But what I love just as much is that sense of winding down and hope for a fresh, new year.

I spent most of today looking over old footage and photos of our growing puppy, Henry, as well as photos from our UK/Europe trip and I loved every second of it. I make a point of looking back at what I’ve done through the year (especially what I’ve enjoyed) before the New Year resolution fever grips me. If you’ve never done it, give it a go. Especially if you’re a writer. Jotting down your 2013 highlights and achievements is a great reminder of all the fun stuff that bubbled up from your hard work.

For me, December is about embracing fun and creativity. It’s for ‘filling the well’ before we get too serious and ambitious on 1 January. So get crafty with your Christmas wrapping, go to a Christmas concert, bake something ambitious, catch up with a group of friends and talk absolute nonsense, make a tower out of your to-be-read book pile, or (and I really want to do this again soon) go to the movies and see two films back-to-back. The next few weeks are for living it up and relaxing!

While it may not sound relaxing to everyone, I’m also looking forward to developing two new YA projects this Christmas. They’re both in their infancy – all random, scrappy notes with plot holes and fat question marks – and if this morning is anything to go by, this photo could sum up my Christmas/New Year (complete with snoozing pup).

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So that’s me signing off for 2013. I hope you have a fun and happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year!

Little Sister – A Halloween story

Yes I’m a day late, but happy Halloween to you all. I hope you battled monsters and ate lollies in awesome costumes. (If not, there’s always tonight.)

Here is my Halloween story, Little Sister, which was published by Tiny Owl Workshop on napkins and distributed around cafes this week. There’s lots of other stories to collect as well, so get on to the Tiny Owl Workshop website and find out where you can get a spooky story with your latte. Enjoy!

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Puppies are terrible writing buddies

Actually, over the last 7 weeks since we’ve had a furball at home, I’ve started to realise why so many writers have a cat instead of a dog.

Mostly because cats don’t care what you’re doing unless you’re feeding them. Which works well for the solitude and long bouts of thinky time.

It’s different with dogs.

Henry is in his ‘terrible two’ stage, so he’s understandably crazy. But I find my writing time at the moment is broken in to 5-10 minute fragments and I’m usually distracted by one of the following scenarios:

  • Henry has weed somewhere in the house
  • Henry has pooped somewhere in the house
  • Henry has disappeared from sight and is therefore, weeing or pooping somewhere in the house
  • Henry is barking and jumping on me like a mad thing
  • Henry is eating a shoe, book or handbag.

The only time I’ve been able to keep him in the study with me is when I’ve put him back in his crate where he promptly got bored and fell asleep.

I feel like I’m gaining an understanding of how new mothers feel when they’re trying to raise a young thing and get on with their life. It’s a total nightmare, but (99% of the time) I’d never consider giving Henry up.

The main pup-baby difference so far as I can tell is:

Negative: He can sprint waaaaaaay faster than me (and is occasionally impossible to catch without bribery), whereas human babies can’t move without you carrying them from room to room.

Positive: Human babies eventually learn to understand what you’re saying, but Henry will never understand when I’m swearing at him, especially if I keep my happy-face on.

2013 SOYA Written Word shortlist

I’m so thrilled to be a finalist in this year’s Spirit of Youth Awards Written Word category.

I’ve had my head down for most of the year, developing my arts teaching business and going through a lot of upheaval in day job land, so I had entered in hope of receiving some encouragement for my writing.

Before I entered, I asked other writers about ‘being ready’ and ‘being good enough’ to submit for certain competitions and grants. We came to the conclusion that no one ever feels that confident and the best way to discover if you’re ready is to submit.

So, I’m glad I submitted to SOYA. (Despite looking through the other entries and deciding I didn’t have a chance.)  And being shortlisted has made me realise that I’m a harsh judge when it comes to my own writing.

It’s an honour to be listed alongside such talented and experienced writers and I’m enjoying reading their work on a rainy Friday afternoon.

Luckily, I have plenty of distraction from the rest of the judging process. I’ve started editing a YA manuscript that I love, I’m preparing for my first in-class show with my junior drama class and after that I’m heading for a few weeks of adventure in the UK and Europe.

You can read through my portfolio or view the other finalists on the SOYA website.

Mr Guzwick’s Lolly Store

Nicky and Alex Preston were perfectly identical. They both had big, green eyes that bulged from their sockets. They both sprouted frizzy and unkempt fire engine red hair, had the same front teeth that overlapped, right across left, and a generous smattering of freckles. They also had a crisp ten dollar note to spend on their favourite treats at Mr. Guzwick’s Lolly Store.

As they stood in the store, the sickly sweet smell of sugar wafted towards them. There were towers of boxed jellybeans. Tubs of soft jellies lined the walls. The fountain spewed with milk chocolate, huge swirled lollipops dangles from every display in the hop, and a large yellow sign on the counter read, Taste test. The twins knew what taste test meant – free food.

‘Good Afternoon,’ beamed Mr. Guzwick seeing the twins, their greedy eyes still fixed on the sign. He was a frail old man and had owned the store for fifty-six years. He had exactly ten strands of hair on his head; Alex had counted them the week before.

‘Would you like to taste my new gum?’

Mr. Guzwick held out two gum squares in electric orange wrapping with ‘The Ultimate Chew’ written on them.

‘It’s extra chewy gum, guaranteed to last an hour more than usual.’ Mr. Guzwick smiled at their burning curiosity. ‘Try it.’

Both twins unwrapped the gum and chucked the small orange squares into their mouths.

The gum exploded with a sweet orange flavour as soon as it hit their tongues and they began to chew and mould the gum in their mouths. Soon after, the gum began to crackle. They opened their mouths to amplify the sound of the popping gum. The gum certainly had been the chewiest gum they had ever experienced. It had begun to swell in their mouths to the size of a large gobstopper. So that’s how it would last so long.

Nicky and Alex had been chewing for ten minutes before their mouths grew numb. Their faces pained with effort. Alex’s jaw began to click in and out of place with every chew. Nicky’s eyes began to water with the amount of pressure on her jaw. The gum squares had swollen even more to take up the whole of their mouths. They could barely shut their mouths. Their jaw muscles went on strike and their faces were red with exhaustion. That was the end of it.

Mr. Guzwick produced a small metal bucket for the twins and they let the great slimy orange globs tumble from their tongues. Nicky and Alex looked up at Mr. Guzwick from the metal bucket, eyes brimming with disappointment. He gave them a sympathetic smile. ‘Cheer up now, there’s plenty of other goodies here!’

To ease their distress, the twins bought two bags of oober goober jellies, twenty packets of sherbet, one large tin of jellybeans, six lollipops and seventeen and a half sticks of red liquorice. No gum. Nicky and Alex presented their money and peculiar toothless grins and left for home.

Mr. Guzwick retired to his backroom and shut the door. Success glistened in his eyes as he looked at the glob of Nicky and Alex’s gum. One, two, three. Three perfect, white children’s teeth jutted out from the gum.

He pulled out the three specimens with tweezers and opened a small tub of superglue. Mr. Guzwick removed the retainer of scattered false teeth from his mouth, leaving only the two front incisors intact. Using the superglue he began to fix the children’s teeth to the gaps in his retainer in accordance to size.

***

Author’s note: This was the first story I wrote for university when I was still figuring out how this story thing actually worked. In previous posts I’ve talked about my love for Roald Dahl’s work and how I borrowed his voice when I was beginning to write. Well, this is the story I was talking about and do you know what? I still have a soft spot for Mr. Guzwick.