ON WRITING

“It’s very easy to quit during the first ten years of writing. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.” Andre Dubus

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

The Cyberpoets


I was teaching the other day and we came across this definition for a 'cyberpoet' - one who makes frequent trips to the edge of technology society and traditional culture and strives to be artful in their use of the internet. Well, I thought, that's me and a trillion others. The article went on to say that 'active supporters of the Internet have given themselves a nomenclature to reflect their cultural aspirations - they are the new cyberpoets.'

I like that word 'cyberpoet.' I shall probably be nameless and fameless until I die, but my main claim to cyberpoet status is here on my blog. I've been very ambivilant with publishing posts and have often posted ones that are deeply unsatisfying - my Nike posts - just do it!  My most satisfying posts have been those when an idea comes to me and I give it time to develop before hitting my blog. For the first couple of years I've been full of insecurities - what has this got to do with writing? what will readers think of this? blah, blah...then I'd write something that was just to say - well, I'm still here...still plugging away...not dead yet...

For those wonderful couple of people who have been sitting patiently waiting for me to find myself, I hope you have noticed a difference in my blog entries. I'm hoping this difference has carried over into my short story/article/novel writing as well. I think it has. You ladies are truly inspirational and have found your 'cyberpoet' a long time ago.

My favourite blogs are those that fulfil my idea of 'arty'. Bloggers such as L'American who write on a simple topic yet take the time to craft it into something literary, something beautiful, something to be savoured. (Of course I'm always a sucker for a bit of travel and that might explain my addiction to Laura's blog.) I have a long way to go to reach Laura's level of 'cyberpoet', but I have my aspirations, and isn't that what writing is all about? Each piece should be better than the last as we surely learn by doing. Early blog entries, like early drafts of stories or novels, are surely a way of learning our craft.

So I am blogging the way I want to, refusing to fret over whether anyone will bother to read, to comment,to follow...Blogging is about sharing, reflection, ideas...and isn't that what being a 'cyberpoet' is all about?

As I make frequent (too frequent) trips to the Internet I hope I can write something to satisfy my inner 'cyberpoet.' How about you??

Monday, 22 March 2010

Does What We Read as Teens Shape our Writing Today?

Ah. the 1960s! Free love, LSD, peace protests, grass, the Beatles, the pill! To be a young teen at such a time was surely to be standing on the cusp of the rest of the century, but the more radical ideas passed me by. Why? It's all thanks to an aunty of mine who would bring boxes of her dog-eared Mills and Boon romances for my sister and me to read. And read we did. While my peers were jumping on (very expensive!) planes to hit the streets of San Francisco or to shop in Carnaby Street, I had my nose in books.

I spent the '60s following the adventures of the governess sent to tutor English to the poor little children of some Greek God, who naturally owned a gob-smackingly glorious Greek Island and so on. That was much more exciting than pot! And remember, Mills and Boon in the '60s was very tame compared to the rampant sex between the crisp pages these days!

Anyway, my mother was looking over my shoulder (as mothers do), concerned at the risque reading matter. She always had her nose in Jean Plaidy or Taylor Caldwell. I had those auspicious authors to discover and discover I did, and hopefully I've learned a little of their style by osmosis. I moved on to Catherine Cookson, Georgette Heyer and Mazo de la Roche. I loved those epic family dramas - Poldarks of Cornwell, the Jalna series... not to mention the wild settings, so strange compared to my tame little town. Oh wow! Still love them. Hemingway and Gore Vidal were to come later, then I moved on to my current favourites, Anita Shreve, Paullina Simons et al, always staying true to all those who came before and shape my writing today.

Back to the '60s. My mother used to ask me - why do you read that trash (M & B)? I answered, sort of honestly, that I loved to learn about exotic places. Growing up in a Queensland country town with a population of 300 (and that was including the horses and cows!) my exposure to other cultures was limited to say the least. My mother thought about it and was quiet. Maybe she felt responsible for bringing me up in such a backwater. So as I devoured Mills and Boon stories, I was fascinated by the wonderful European locales, I promise, and my fascination continues.

Which brings me to today. I love reading good stories with multiple settings (I am a multi-tasker after all!) I am sitting here blogging, listening to News TV, minding 2 doggies, planning my tutorials for today and wondering what's cooking for dinner while in the back of my mind I'm thinking about editing my NaNo story and tidying up a couple of short stories for Fast Fiction magazine  (all with interesting locations, of course!) Hmm. Does that mean I don't do anything properly? No, I don't think so...

My multi-tasking includes having so many things I would like to do when I 'retire.' And running a B and B is one of just many dreams. Yeah, I know, glorified housework, but I think about all the interesting travellers I would meet and I could practise all my new recipes on them, but the best bit is that I could close my doors when I wanted to and fly off to somewhere exotic to have more stories to tell. That is, if the B and B made any money, which I guess is debatable, as I'd be so busy reading and writing, I'd forget to do that housework!

True to my 'Staycation' (see previous entry), I went driving to Brisbane's Northern Beaches (which all have English names - Scarborough, Margate...go figure...) on the weekend and saw some wonderful houses in the Old Queenslander style (which probably originated in England too!). Perfect for a B and B, and overlooking Moreton Bay to boot! Dreamy views, dreamy houses. With plenty of room to write in, I'm sure...


Old Queenslander, Sandgate

Which brings me to the book I am currently reading, well, one of many, I am a multi-tasker after all. Written by Monica McInerney it's called Greetings from Somewhere Else. Have you read it? Well, it ticks all the boxes for me - great settings: Australia and Ireland - great story with running a B and B involved. I'm loving it. The type of novel I aspire to write.

It fills a gap until I can get to the Greek Islands!


Friday, 19 March 2010

The Staycation, the new Vacation

The Brisbane River is right at my front door. What is at yours?

Don't we all need a break from the computer, and all the distractions of our ordinary lives? Sometimes we cry out for a break, but we just can't afford the time, the money or the emotional strength to plan a week or two in some exotic location. We're too busy creating exotic locations for our heroes.

Why not just make your weekend, or a couple of days off, really special by having a 'staycation?' Stay at home, yet feel like you're on vacation. I like it.

For me, a staycation is just the ticket to help inject some excitement into my usual routine. It also helps keep my budget in check by exploring my neighborhood and nearby areas rather than jetting off to another state, the tempting off-shore islands or far-away Europe. It's also good mentally to get out and about, we might even find the odd story idea.

Australia is far away from everything, but living in Brisbane, I have access to many great tourist spots, beaches, restaurants and parks, and it's surprising how fresh and new it seems when I go out of my way to become a tourist, not a resident. So take the time to investigate what's in your neighbourhood; you might just find a surprise or two as I have.

Here are a few suggestions for creating a little vacay for yourself without straying far from home. I'll concentrate on indulgence as I have a flair in that department...


Let's start with the pampering, because that's just what we need after writing ourselves silly all week.

Visit Your Local Spa

This can be the most super indulgent of treats. Never been?  As L'Oreal says -you're worth it. A spa doesn't have to break the bank if you do your research. What better reason to give it a shot while you're on your staycation? If your staycation includes staying at a luxury hotel for a night or two (lucky you!) choose a pamper package, where the spa treatments are included.

If your idea of a staycation is to stay in, you can also create your own spa settings at home to indulge in whenever the mood strikes. Gather some glorious scented candles, some bubble bath containing exotic ingredients, a soft bath pillow, your favourite relaxation music in the background and you're ready to dream. Glass of wine optional of course - bring on the bubbly for me! Warning! Try not to fall asleep.

If all of the above are out of the question, get the luxury French linens out of the cupboard (or go buy some with the money you've saved), decorate your bedroom just as you'd like it, then put on a face mask and read a great book! I like that too!




What's Next?

Hold a Wine Tasting

Who doesn't enjoy visiting wineries? Probably those that don't drink wine, but I've found this doesn't apply to most of my writing friends. We are all quite partial to a drop to keep the creative juices flowing. Having a wine tasting is a fun way to spend an afternoon, but we don't all have a vineyard in our backyard. To be true to the staycation spirit we need to bring the vineyard to us.

Have a wine tasting at home. Invite a few 'besties' and enjoy a leisurely few hours sipping and nibbling. How relaxing is that! Remember, choose a nice mix of bubblies, reds and whites, and don't invite too many people as you don't want them feeling like they're crammed into a wine tasting mosh pit. Oh, and don't forget some good music. Sitting around chilling at sunset is just the thing!

Of course, after the wine we need the food...

Cooking up a Theme

You could break out your cooking skills and try some dishes from around the world, perhaps from the place you'd visit if you had the time/money. Vacation is about exploration, and even if you can't go to your favoured exotic destination, it doesn't mean your taste buds have to suffer. My personal favourite is French Food, but not just the fancy stuff or the weird stuff. I go to my local Farmer's Market to gather all the ingredients I need for my indulgence.


I call it my 'French Dinner' when I break open a fresh baguette, slather on the runny brie/camembert, top it with duck liver pate and pop a muscat grape in my mouth for that bit of sweetness I like. Not forgetting bubbly to sip between decadent mouthfulls. You might be more creative. Even I am at times. I'm a dessert freak and there's nothing like a French Creme Brulee with strawberries and chocolate suace. Yummm. Try it. The opportunities are endless and the rewards are priceless. Yeah, I know, the scales, but we have to forget about them occasionally!


These are just a few thoughts to help spark your imagination and I haven't even mentioned sightseeing. What are your staycation suggestions? It'd be great to have other bloggers write about their dream staycation.


Is it over yet?


Sunday, 14 March 2010

Lunch in Paris

Don't I wish! Give me any book with Paris in the title and I'm a goner, so I was chuffed to grab this latest tome (Lunch in Paris) at my local library on the FastBack option (read and return in 7 days or else!). I'll probably write a review for bookseraz, but just had to write how delighted I was with this latest in the 'I went to Paris, met a funky Frenchman, married funky Frenchman, ate yummy Parisien food and despite the angst of my rellies in the 'other world' outside of France I'm making a go of it and trying not to get fat in the process mode!' Loved it Elizabeth Bard (journalist and Parisien market food shopping guide). Congrats!

The reason I'm indulging in my love of all things French, especially Parisien, is that Elizabeth Bard stuck to her guns. She agonised over what work she could do in Paris, then came to the realisation that her love of buying the wonderfully fresh produce at the markets, cooking up mouth-watering dishes, and her ability to write, made a great combination. Thus the book (including fab recipes.) She could have been sidetracked with other options, but she took the time to find her way and her way was writing! Really spoke to me as I try to explore too many options (not that there's anything wrong with options!!)

Here's to staying on the road we have chosen...

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Return from the land of the rings

Well, I'm back after an exhilariting 10 days driving around the North Island of beautiful NZ. It was a wonderful way to refuel after a gruelling start to 2010. It was inspiring to visit places where Lord of the Rings was imagined, even staying in a motel under a brooding volcano. Drove nearly to the top and could feel the action flying around! I find landscapes (especially the sea) inspire writing. Maybe that's one of the reasons I love reading Anita Shreve - her settings become a major character. I find it hard to better her Fortune's Rocks with its at times harsh seascape which unfolds with the storyline. I travel a lot, keeping a journal, and it is amazing how ideas pop up in inspirational places.

Good writing everyone!