‘How To Be A Writer’ by Emma-Lee Winters

 

  1. Sit at the desk with pen, paper and your preferred drink; wine is best.

    You do this step first because you believe this is how every author should work. From the second you wanted to be a writer, you convinced yourself that you needed a writing desk and some form of alcoholic beverage—like that man you saw in that movie once, where he set out to write an entire play, spending all day sleeping and all night writing—because that is how big, famous authors make their best work. Of course, you don’t have to do it in the same order as the man in the movie
    , but you have yourself convinced that you must conform to crazy alcohol-infused archetypes of well-known authors to be marvellous. You also need a wad of paper—about two inches thick—and a pen or two to last you the night, so you’ll be able to write an entire first draft. You kid yourself out of the idea of cramped hands, neck and back. You convince yourself that to become better you just write about the same thing repeatedly, until it works. Until you are satisfied. You tell yourself that sleep is for the weak and a full bottle of wine will get you through at least this first stage of writer’s inspiration. Until you realise that the idea you have… is fruitless. It won’t get you the Nobel Prize in Literature, or The Man Booker Prize, or even admiration from your parents, because you already know they will say you are wasting your time and that you’re really just a hopeless drunk.

  2. Stare off into space and think for a moment. Sip your wine.

    Take another sip as you ruminate over how your parents are going to greet you the next time you go home for dinner. Keep thinking about it as you stare intensely at the wall, the ceiling, that one shoe you cannot find the friend to, that weirdly shaped mark just above your little toe on your left foot. Look at anything until you believe that you have the right, just like anyone else
    , to create a piece of artwork, no matter how shit it may come out. Maybe you even start writing about a boy whose parents continually tell him that writers never get anywhere in life, that their only accomplishment is deterioration by alcoholism, drug abuse or starvation. Then you change the story up a bit and turn the boy into a cold-hearted man who spurns every love interest until one day he falls in love with another man who is dying. But he can’t profess his love because he doesn’t want to be more of a failure to his parents, he doesn’t want to be a vulnerable man with nothing but shame and a soured attempt at a woeful career. Ending up with nothing, like his estranged uncle. So, he finds a wife. Within a year his marriage dissolves. Three months after they divorce his ex-wife remarries, and he kills her out of blind hatred. Then, before you can really think about what you’ve just written, you scrunch every piece of paper up into a ball and chuck them at the walls. Start all over again. This time fill up your glass of wine all the way to the brim and take a big gulp because you are hell bent on making this work. You will not prove to your parents that you should’ve taken that university offer and given up this ludicrous idea instead of taking three months off work and spending all your savings on rent JUST SO YOU COULD WRITE THIS DAMN BOOK.

  3. Now put pen to paper; start writing. If nothing comes to you keep staring at the wall.

    Wait… You already did that. But start writing anyway. Scribble down every last scrap of dialogue, description and utter passion onto that page until you at least have a starting point. It doesn’t matter if you run out of paper: you can steal some from your roommate that you hardly see anymore. Keep writing. Throw away every pen that runs out of ink, just drop them onto the floor. It doesn’t matter; you’re not going to leave your desk. All the pen casings can wait until inspiration has dwindled and you have nothing left to write, but that will not happen because you are now sipping drunkenly on your third glass of wine, and it’s cheap wine too, and you feel like an empire has fallen at your feet, and you are now their ruler. With just pen and paper you can make them bow to your every whim. Just don’t stop writing. Whatever you do, whatever happens, you cannot stop writing now. This is it; this is your chance. Wait… Now what? You’ve run out of inspiration… Really? Stare at something with a really blank expression on your drunk face, until you feel like you can break down walls with a single word again, or until you faint.

  4. Continue process until you live up to the (often incorrectly attributed to) Hemingway quote: ‘Write drunk; edit sober’.You have nearly exhausted your paper pile, and you’ve only written on one side of each page. Don’t bother about that; keep going. Yes, your hand is cramping, well, maybe you should have written this all on a slow, grating computer that is full of old porn videos your ex-boyfriend downloaded before he decided to bugger off with your loving baby kitten. That doesn’t matter right now. You are going to make yourself into the best damn writer you can be. And, once you’ve finished this book, you can edit it yourself. Who needs to hire an editor, and waste their time running back and forth between tedious fucking meetings? No. Hey, don’t start editing; why are you editing already? Stop it! There is no point going back and rewriting that bit of the book if you haven’t even thought about the ending. Keep writing. Write until your fingers bleed, and keep writing until you reach the end of your characters’ story. That is how it is. Remember the man in the movie? The one who sat all night writing and slept all day? Who enjoyed the pain that writing brought him and the pleasure he got in publishing his work? Soon, that will be you. Soon you will be publishing book, after book, after book. Your parents won’t care that you never went to university or if you go to university and study some shit-ass degree that means nothing on a resume because you will be rich. You will have made it. You will have shown them. You know you can because, when you put your mind to it, you are the ruler of your own damn kingdom. No one can stop you.

  5. If all else fails, become a florist who talks about a lost dream with every customer.
    You tried. You went through ninety-six bottles of wine and two bottles of vodka to get to where you are today. The manuscript is tucked away and mostly crumpled in your desk drawer. You did it. You may have been told your novel will never be published, but you wrote it anyway. You lived up to Hemingway’s quote. You wasted three months of your young, boisterous life, and now you’re here standing behind the counter of a small florist in London, wrapped in a hideous cardigan two sizes too big for you, with your hair knotted and tangled in a messy bun at the nape of your neck. Droopy eye-lids and cracked lips: you look terrible. You sound terrible too, with your monotonous voice and your whingy complaints. That’s okay because deep down you feel kind of accomplished. Four years later, with no degree and a meagre wage that warrants you rent the small room above the florist, you are going to make it your mission to tell anyone who walks into this overly-scented shop that they couldn’t get any lower than you. You pull out a packet of cigarettes and light one, while standing behind the counter watching customer after customer pick out their favourite blossoms. You wrap them as the fag hangs from your mouth, and ash floats down to the waxed paper with every puff you take.


Words by Emma-Lee Winters

Art by Rhianna Carr

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Emma-Lee is a university student by day, a writer by night and a professional tea drinker. She aims to finish her degree, become an English teacher and continue to dip her toes into the fascinating pool of editing and publishing.

You can find her on Twitter and Instagram

‘Photograph the Soul’ by Jessica Tucker

 

It’s Saturday. We’re with his friends and he feels happy. Because it’s Saturday. He’s had a drink. I’m here. His friends are here. They are competing with each other and then he picks up his phone. I prepare myself.

See. This is…’ I try to tune out. I might crack if I focus on what he is saying. I might yell. Or cry. Or make a comment just a little too sarcastically. So that he picks up on it even though he is drunk. I go as far as feigning disinterest. But it doesn’t work.

Did you see this one?’ He leans closer, our shoulders touching. I am forced to look at the picture. I haven’t seen it. It could be a holiday snap but because it is not I do not know how to respond. I haven’t seen any of them. I resist the urge to say that and so I just say ‘no’. It is safer that way.

I’ve shown you these pictures, haven’t I?’ I shake my head. It is much safer than to speak. Than to say that I haven’t seen any of them. That I kept getting excuses every time I asked. That he would say he had to organise them or find the right time or enough time to explain them all. I want to say that I haven’t seen any and it is his fault and now it has been too long and so I don’t want to see them because I don’t care anymore. But that isn’t true.

But I don’t say any of that.

I thought I had.’ He frowns quizzically as if trying to recall. He can’t recall. Because I am right. ‘I’ll have to show you some time.’ His phone goes away and I know my chances of seeing any other photos go with it.


Words by Jessica Tucker

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Jessica Tucker is a lawyer, a reader and a writer – not always in that order and sometimes all at once. Her legal background, and her interest in crime, psychology, human motivation and politics, inform both her reading choices and her writing.

 

 

 

Artwork by Rhianna Carr. You can find more of Rhianna’s art on Facebook @RhiannaCarrART or on Instagram

‘Moving Earth’ by Riana Kinlough

 

You feel the low thunder of moving earth and remember a blow like a lightning strike on your temple. Light appears as the dirt vanishes. Your bones strain upwards, anxious to meet the sun. Your rebirth is breach. Small hands pause at the unexpected hardness of your ankle. Tenderly, with new purpose, they uncover all the tiny bones of your foot and continue upwards. As they unearth your left femur, you remember with a pang the heavy boots that shattered it. You were a runner once.

Slowly, every inch revealing another small act of violence on your poor body, the Earth lets you go. The hands that freed you belong to a woman. Her skin and clothes are dark with something more than earth. You wonder, only for a moment, what she was burying when she found you.

 


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Words by Riana Kinlough

Riana is an Adelaide-based writer, whose primary interests include murderous women and keeping her cat off the keyboard long enough to write. You can see her work in the CRUSH anthology.

Artwork by Rhianna Carr. You can find more of Rhianna’s art on Facebook @RhiannaCarrART or on Instagram

‘You and I’ by Tanner Muller

You’re standing outside your friend’s apartment building, your body soaking, your phone without a percentage. You lift your handbag over your head and begin to walk. It doesn’t take long for you to slip and fall onto the pavement. You cry, but the tears are hidden amid the rain that falls onto your face. Now, more than ever, is the opportunity to reveal myself to you. I lower the car window and speak to you for the very first time.

‘Do you need some help, miss? You look hurt,’ I say.

Your head turns sharply to face me. ‘Well, you must be a genius,’ you say as you examine my appearance, ‘Do I know you?’

I think, of course you do. I’m your future lover. You just don’t know it yet.

‘Unless you recognise me from Thursday quiz nights at The Lodge, I wouldn’t think so.’

You stare at me, bewildered. You’re clearly not amused.

‘Would you like a ride home?’ I say to break the awkward tension—hoping, praying, that you’ll accept my offer.

‘Give me a good enough reason as to why I should. For all I know, you could be a murderer.’

‘Well, I—’

‘Is this how you pick up chicks?’ you interrupt. ‘Prowling the streets in search for some girl who’s in dire need of assistance?’

‘Did it work?’ I say in my final attempt at getting you into my car. I’ve been anticipating this very moment since I first laid eyes on you. Now, my future with you all depends on these three words. You’ll either tell me to get lost, and refer to me as that maniac who tried to kidnap you on the street that night, or you…laugh. You laugh. I wouldn’t consider it to be my finest moment, but it’s enough for you to take a risk and put your trust into me. You step into the car.

You drench the leather seat covers, but I’m not bothered because I finally have you close to me; close enough to touch you, to smell you. Your sweet peachy fragrance lingers inside the vehicle. This was, of course, despite your soaking body. I could only imagine this scent from outside the window of your apartment, but now it fills my nose with delight.

As we pull away from the curb, I notice how gentle you appear to be from the corner of my eyes. You’re like a priceless family heirloom or an ancient glass vase, look—but don’t touch. And your legs are smooth, as though they were manufactured and shaped like a Barbie doll. I’m resisting the temptation to meaninglessly graze my hand across your knee. Heck, I’m resisting the temptation to pull over the car and penetrate you gently and fill your body with nothing but love. But I don’t. Of course I don’t. I must be patient.

‘What’s your address?’ I ask, though I know perfectly well where you live.

‘Why do you want to know that? So you can stalk me?’

You make the environment uncomfortable again, as though you’re teasing me, playing mind games to analyse my reaction.

You chuckle before continuing, ‘I’ll just tell you where to go from here.’

We’re a few more blocks away, but there is no conversation. Instead, you sit there politely with your hands folded into your lap, providing me directions to your building: right, left, left, right, left, right.

‘So, what were your plans for tonight?’ I say to interject the monotony.

‘Well, before I was drenched in rain, I was drenched in my friend’s tears,’ you say sarcastically, as though you didn’t want to be there. ‘Every time she has something troubling her, she expects me to pick up the pieces.’

‘That must put a lot of pressure on you.’

‘You want to know something? It does. I’ve never been able to say it out loud before, but it’s exhausting.’

‘So, why do you do it then?’

‘I’m not entirely sure. Perhaps I’ve become used to it—going out of my way to help others. Now listen, are you sure you’re alright with this? I feel as though I need to repay you in some way—’

‘Tell me more,’ I interrupt. ‘How does this person make you feel?’

‘Honestly,’ you pause for a moment, your mind lost in thought, ‘I dislike her, immensely. But I keep disregarding the importance of my feelings towards her, because I’ve convinced myself that it’s wrong to think that way. I place her at the forefront of my life, but have been shown nothing in return. She doesn’t care for me. She—’

You’re wanting to speak more, but you resist and fight to keep the words back.

We approach your apartment building, but I leave the engine running. You turn and stare at me with a polite grin.

‘Thanks for the ride, mister,’ you say.

‘The pleasure was all mine.’

It was in that moment I thought, you like me, don’t you? Even if you won’t admit it to yourself, you trust me already. I gave you my undivided attention and listened to your problems. In this short car ride, I’ve managed to begin chipping away at your walls of doubt and unhappiness. No one else in your life has been able to achieve this. I’ve exposed you to the emotions you were hiding. All you could see were limitations, stops signs. You were trapped and blinded by what you feared most: the truth, the correct truth, the truth you’re meant to be feeling. Through my extensive observations of you, I’ve been able to examine your behaviour, even in your most vulnerable states. So now it becomes clear that you want me. As a matter of fact, you need me.

‘I almost forgot to ask for your name,’ you say.

‘Derek,’ I respond, lying.

‘I’m Valerie.’

‘Nice to meet you, Valerie.’

You exit the vehicle and we wave each other goodbye. I wait as you enter your apartment building before driving away. Your peachy scent continues to linger under my nose on the ride home. I’ll be back soon. No doubt about that.


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Tanner is an emerging writer living and exploring in Adelaide. His work has been published in Glam Adelaide, Mind Shave, Verse Magazine and the Piping Shrike anthology series, among other places.

Website: https://tannermullercreative.com

Instagram: @tanner.muller

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tannermullercreative/


Art by Rhianna Carr. You can find more of Rhianna’s art on Facebook @RhiannaCarrART or on Instagram

Speakeasy Flinders: Creative Readings

In the lead up to their final event of the year, Speakeasy’s president Amelia Hughes gives us a little insight into this student-led spoken word club.

Back in the 1920s, a speakeasy was an underground bar where its customers could ‘speak easy’ and freely in the times of tough prohibition laws without fear of being reported. The term has been re-appropriated, and now our speakeasy is a place where writers can read their creative works aloud without fear of ridicule.

In a city as small as Adelaide, Speakeasy is a great way to connect with other aspiring authors, especially when you’re young and maybe don’t know anyone else who writes. Small writing communities—such as ours at Speakeasy Flinders—can help encourage writers to take that final step to be published, and offer a network of support and people to bounce ideas off of. It’s also a lot of fun being able to talk about your own work with people who are interested in what you want to write, instead of a friend or family member and watching as their eyes slowly glaze over, their head nodding periodically.

A lot of what people choose to read at these events are short stories, segments from larger stories, or a few poems, but occasionally we have the chance to hear creative non-fiction, a scene from a play, or even a song.

We also produce a couple of zines each year. A zine is a type of hand-made portfolio crossed with a scrapbook, usually made by artists who want to creatively display a selection of their works. Our zine feature a collection of short stories, poems, flash fiction and even a bit of art, mostly submitted by the students of Flinders University. Many of those who submit also participate in the Speakeasy reading events, having the chance to share their work both verbally and on paper. We sell our zines at our event for only a few dollars, and the profits help us continue as a club.

At our events at The Wheaty we like to feature a prominent writer from the Adelaide community. Taking our stage for the final event of 2017 is Mark Tripodi, a playwright whose play, Anteworld, featured at the Adelaide Fringe in early 2017. Hearing established writers at a small event like ours shows the aspiring creative minds of Adelaide that anything is possible.

Our final event for the year is on the 22nd of November at The Wheatsheaf Hotel. Doors open at 6.30pm for a 7pm start. Gold coin entry. We will also be selling the ninth volume of our beloved Speakeasy zine, fresh off the press.


Words by Amelia Hughes

Relocation

The stuttering crawl of traffic arrests, and a terminal red line on the GPS tells Gerald he should settle in. He sits straight-backed in a collared shirt, top button still buttoned, in the driver’s seat of his car, in a line of stationary cars, a still frame excised from a zoetrope.

On the passenger side, an emergency stopping lane hints at escape. It runs clear, but only as far as the next overpass. There, a massive pylon erupts from the ground like a memorial. For any who made the attempt, it would mark an end.

Gerald’s spent a lot of time on this freeway, rolling slow in the dusk, but he’s never been held up exactly here, at the top of this low rise. He’s noticed the graveyard, of course, beyond the concrete wall that serves to divide the locals (dead) and those just passing through (ostensibly living). The other side has it pretty good, with their freshly mown grass. Their gated community. Until now Gerald had never noticed the graffiti scrawled against the barrier: If you slept here you’d be home by now.

The vehicle in front of him inches forward in a restless zombie shuffle. Ahead and to the right, a transit van’s indicator light blinks like a tic. Fumes from all these idling motors start to cloy, so Gerald recirculates the air in his cabin. There: he is sealed off from the others, those commuter vessels, also static. Steel cannisters for single occupants. When the traffic flows again, they will diffuse into the suburbs. For each car a garage; for each garage a dwelling. Is that what home is? That’s encapsulation, thinks Gerald, but it’s too transient. Home should be a place to stay and sleep sound. At this rate when he reaches his destination it will be time to leave again.

More than anything else, Gerald wants a shorter commute. So he pulls into the emergency lane. He is moving, picking up speed, tearing past the other cars. He can see his new address.


Words by Andrew Roff

Andrew Roff’s first novel-length manuscript was shortlisted for the Wakefield Press Unpublished Manuscript Award at the 2016 Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature. His short fiction has appeared in Antithesis Journal and Antipodean SF, and has been adapted for community radio. Andrew’s interests in crime, politics and economics inform his writing. He tweets at @roffwrites and you can read more of his work at roffwrites.com.

CRUSH- Stories about love

Confession: I do not often read romance but when I do I usually enjoy it.

Crush is an anthology of romance stories which centres around the concept of the word ‘Crush’. The term itself has multiple definitions, these definitions are used to divide the book into four distinct sections:

  1. An intense infatuation
  2. To cease or crumple by pressure
  3. To hug or embrace tightly
  4. A crowd of people pressed together.

In each of these sections are stories which explore the ideas of each definition. In doing this, the reader can choose a story more suited to what they feel like reading at the time.

There is a stigma surrounding romance fiction, which claims it has little to no literary merit. It’s usually dismissed as ‘chick-lit’. The stories collected in Crush demonstrate a wide range of writing styles and genres blended with romance. There is fiction which is clearly for everyone, for the LGBTQ+ community, for people who like experimental writing, and for those who prefer the literary variety. There is a diversity to this anthology which brokers an appeal to a wide audience. Romance is a part of almost everyone’s lives to some degree or another. When it comes to real life we don’t dismiss it. You don’t have to be a certain age or gender to experience it, just as you don’t have to be a certain age or gender to enjoy romance fiction, and you certainly don’t have to be ashamed of showing your support for the local, emerging artists who have contributed to this book.

Crush brings together a variety of talented writers who are both local and international. Quite a few Flinders current and past students are also featured in the anthology. Recent Hons. Graduate Simone Corletto and PhD Candidate Jess M. Miller worked with Amy T. Matthews (chair of the 2016 ‘Ain’t Love Grand’ conference in Adelaide), and Midnight Sun’s Lynette Washington to compile and edit the book. With a wide range of both local and international contributors, Crush is a must read for anyone involved in the Adelaide writing community.

With stories that verge on traditional, literary, and experimental, Crush has something to appeal to everyone. Women loving women, women loving men, men loving women, and men loving men. Relationships beginning and relationships ending. Good dates and bad dates. A wide variety of experiences tied together by the central exploration of love.

I’m not going to try and pick a favourite story in the anthology because they are all fantastic in their own way. Full of passion and wit, they offer both warmth and scepticism where it’s needed most.

Whether we acknowledge it or not, love forms a big part of our lives. The writers of Crush have interrogated this in their stories. We see people just like you and me fumbling through life searching for the thing that will make them feel valid and loved.

This is a potentially perfect book for those of you looking to escape into the world of fiction without the hassle of committing to a full novel. While romance is not normally my cup of tea, Crush provides something for everyone so why pick up a local anthology and read the both online and from local retailers.

As a special treat, selected authors will be sharing their work at The Jade on Thursday 16th November. Come along to The Jade, 142-160 Flinders Street, for a chance to meet Michelle Fairbarn, J. R. Koop, Michelle Oglivy, and C.J. McLean, hear them read, and show your support for local writers.


Words by Kayla Gaskell

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Crush is available in stores now. At the special reading event at The Jade on the 16th of November copies of Crush will be available for the special price of $25. For more information check the Facebook page.

 

 

Literary Papercuts: Reflecting on the Australian Short Story Festival

Neil Gaiman once wrote that short stories are journeys you can make to the other side of the universe and still be back in time for tea. Short stories are bold. They are shameless. They deserve to be celebrated. And on November 3-5, at the University of South Australia, they were.

A collaboration between Margaret River Press and MidnightSun Publishing, the Australian Short Story Festival (ASSF) is an annual celebration of short story writing, of the brief but poignant, the tiny and the fierce. Debuting in Perth in 2015, it approached its second programme with the tagline ‘good things come in short packages’. This turned into a vast understatement.

After a day of workshops on Friday, the festival was officially opened with an earnest and hilarious address from Tony Birch, winner of the 2016 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award  for Indigenous Writing. The good humour continued to flow right across the weekend, in discussions of genre, comedy, love and absurdity. Even in panels dealing with trauma, medical ethics, closure, and dark speculative fiction, the passion writers held for the short form was clear, and their audiences absorbed it all. Questions were asked thoughtfully and intelligently and answered in kind. Fun was had. Coffee was inhaled. Words were shared and considered and loved.

Lucy Durneen was the festival’s international guest, reading from her highly acclaimed short story collection Wild Gestures. This book shared the pop-up Dymocks table with an impressive list of names—Roanna Gonsalves’ The Permanent Resident was available to buy, as was Melanie Cheng’s Australia Day, Sean Williams’ Have Sword, Will Travel, Tony Birch’s Common People, and Lisa L. Hannett’s Bluegrass Symphony, amongst so many others. These titles were snatched up with glee and sold out fast.

Perhaps the overarching optimism of the ASSF can best be described by how it looked to the future—how it welcomed as well as reflected. Both days ended with the launch of a new collection, the first being Lynette Washington’s short story cycle Plane Tree Drive, a portrait of suburban isolation which has already garnered accolades and will be featured in an upcoming Tulpa review.   

After an empowering closing address by Rebekah Clarkson, focusing on the legacy of Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Lottery’ and the enduring attraction of short fiction, Australian literary darling Carmel Bird launched her eBook collection, The Dead Aviatrix. Reflecting on themes the festival had explored, Carmel noted that the word ‘subversion’ was a common thread, and without further ado announced that her launch would be a subversive one.

So we did what we’d expected not to do. We clung with sticky fingers to raffle tickets, and we won jelly, and when lyric sheets were passed around we didn’t think twice about belting out the Aeroplane Jelly theme in time with a live cello/trumpet duo.

And the whole time, all I could think was, what a great short story this would make.  

Because, at the end of the day, the Australian Short Story Festival—any festival, really—is designed to inspire. To provoke, to elicit, to prod everyone in the vicinity until someone picks up a pen and starts writing. I named this review ‘Literary Papercuts’ because I think that this is as good a metaphor as any—because the short story, after all, is characteristically small, humble, sometimes unnoticed. But it can hit infinitely more nerves across a shorter distance. And it can come from nowhere.

I walked away from the Australian Short Story Festival holding a notebook positively dripping with the ink of new ideas. These scribbles might become journeys to the other side of the universe. They might become bold or shameless. Subversive. They might become papercuts. Or they might stay scribbles.

But that potential—that glimmering maybe in something small—surely that is what short stories are all about.


Words by Jess M. Miller

‘Crashing Waves’ by J.R. Polkinghorne

 

Wind whistled over the deck, howling through every nook and cranny, growing in strength and lowering in pitch as it whooshed around me like a cold blanket encasing my body. Waves clashed on either side of the ship in rapid hits like a hundred thrashing drummers beating endlessly away at the ship’s wooden panels.
The wind picked up and the waves grew larger around me, while the crew snored away below. I was showered in a spray of icy salt water as I clung desperately to the ship’s edge, watching as Davy Jones pulled and tugged at the vessel, trying to drag us down into the watery depths of his locker.

I tied myself to the deck, the coarse rope rubbing against my soft flesh as the waves knocked me back and forth. One moment I was standing upright, and in another a wave had bashed me down onto my hands and knees. The first time it happened I tried to scream, but nothing came out. All I accomplished was filling my lungs with water and heaving it up on the deck until another wave came.
I should have stayed below with the others; they were all tucked away in their beds, warm and dry. I should have ignored the sounds coming from above, but by god, I was stupid. The thought of drowning in my sleep sent such fear over me that I scrambled on deck in nothing but my pants and socks. What a mistake that was. Every time the icy water hit me stabbing into my skin over and over. My limbs were getting stiff from the cold and yet the waves could still toss me around as though I was a ragdoll. And although the rope didn’t let me go far I still managed to slam painfully into everything. I thought of going back. Back into the dark under the deck, and yet I stayed frozen. The fear kept me in place and the fear would be my doom.

My skin was turning purple from both the cold and the bruises. I was starting to look like a prune. I was damned soul stuck forever in a loop of pain and suffering for the sins I have no doubt committed in my short life aboard this ship. This wasn’t the hell my mother warned me about, but I couldn’t think of another word to call this.
My body was going numb and all I could do was think. Right now I wanted nothing more than to curl up in my mother’s arms against her breast and cry as though I was a boy. She would sing to me, her voice sweet and soothed my aguish.

I wanted to sing, I wanted to open my mouth and let the words out, but I couldn’t, not with the fear of filling my lungs again with foul fishy water.
My thoughts left me, and all I could do was stare blankly at the deck, as it sank into the endless depth of the sea, the impending doom of my watery grave mocking me, the promise of gold and adventure sinking along with me. I shouldn’t have jumped on this ship, shouldn’t have thrown away the life my mother gave me for a chance at adventure, but the idea of sailing across the sea, my name striking fear into the hearts of men, so tempted me.

But alas, my dreams were lost and my hopes were drowning, falling deep into hopeless despair. My death was forming around me clinging tightly to my skin as the darkness crept in. Death was on my shoulder, his breath like rotten fish, as he waited for my demise.

As the gloom started sneaking in, another sound picked up through the beating of waves and screaming wind. It was just a faint whisper, carried out along the sea, settling down against my cheek. The whisper turned into a song, moving in time with the waves and floating along the breeze. It was truly beautiful and it brought a small flicker of light into my soul, fanning the fire of my heart. I tried to stand—but to no avail. I still couldn’t move, my limbs cold and numb. The best I could do was open my mouth to call out, but as I tried another waved crashed down. This was the end. I didn’t have the strength to force the water out, nor the strength to search for the angel calling out to me.

Another wave washed over, covering the ship and bringing silence with it. I was no longer cold, only the suffocating embrace of the ocean was around, squeezing my lungs. My body didn’t hurt anymore. My lungs did though, and in that moment I felt the urge to breath, to move, to swim away. My limbs sprang into action and moved against the pull of the sea, but I was tied down; attached to the ship as it sunk. The thing I thought would be my saviour was instead aiding in my death as I, too, was dragged down with the ship. I tugged at the rope, my skin rubbing raw. It was no use. I was trapped.

I was dying and there was nothing I could do about it. Scared, helpless, and small, I was held down by something bigger than me. Even though I knew it was hopeless, I still struggled to swim towards the surface. I still struggled for that last breath of crisp air.
But I only sank further, my strength leaving me, my limbs stopped moving.

It was then, in that moment of defeat that I heard it again. The sweet voice kissed my cheek, a whisper through the silence of the sea. I wanted to see it. I needed to see the angel calling out to me before I was gone, before everything was gone and the only thing left was this vast sea. I gritted my teeth and forced my eyes open, the salt stinging them every time they opened even the slightest bit.

The voice was louder now, and I could almost make out words. Against my lids I could feel light shining, begging me to open them. Again I tried, and every time I did I let out a little more breath from the pain. I was running out of time. I couldn’t let it end like this. I needed to fight through the pain, through the despair and hopelessness, but it hurt. It hurt so much, and every time I tried it seemed I only got further from my goal. Even in the water I knew I was crying, for that one little glimpse of the light that was taunting my death. I don’t believe I have ever wanted something more in my entire life.

The song kept playing, and it was now that I heard my name. The angel was singing for me and me alone. I needed to see it. With the final force of my body I flung open my eyes. Light consumed me as I was blinded by it, but after blinking I could see it. The angel calling for me was no angel at all but the captain holding a candle by my face, her gruff features illuminated by it. I was still on the ship. The storm had died down and we hadn’t sunk.
I was still tied to the ship and wet from the waves, but the air was light. I could breathe. I was cold, but I could move. I sat up and looked at the captain who gave me a puzzled look before standing extending her hand to me. “You shouldn’t sleep on the deck. Men drown doing that you know.”

I laughed. I laughed so hard it hurt my lungs but I couldn’t stop. Even though the captain kept staring I still laughed. I laughed at the captain’s words. I laughed at my foolish dreams. But most of all I laughed because I could, because I was alive.

 


Words by J.R. Polkinghorne

Art by Rhianna Carr. You can find more of Rhianna’s art on Facebook @RhiannaCarrART

 

NaNoWriMo – A Beginner’s Guide

 

Every November Twitter is taken over by desperate writers mounting an immense personal challenge – the writing of a 50,000 word novel in 30 days – otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month. Now in its 15th year, this yearly word marathon has developed quite a reputation. Some love the excuse to devote an entire month to writing, children and partners be damned, and the social opportunity of write-ins for otherwise word hermits, and of course, the global writing community coming together to celebrate this shared hobby. Detractors, however, decry the flooding of unedited self-published NaNo Novel uploaded to Amazon in December by enthusiastic people who haven’t heard of the term “revision”, and the detrimental approach to speed writing that values quantity over quality.  But love it or hate it, NaNo is an institution, and one this author would definitely recommend giving a go, if only to see if you can, at least once, if only for the 40% Scrivener coupon.

So, how should you go about undertaking such a challenge? By following my simple rules:

 

1: Register on the NaNoWriMo website

Perhaps the obvious first step but I’ve met a surprising number of people who started NaNo without even realising there was a specific organisation that started it all. It’s free to sign up and participate in NaNoWriMo (at https://nanowrimo.org), although they do take donations and have a pretty snazzy merch store, if you’re into that sort of thing. The site also lets you track your word count and spits out some pretty neat progress graphs and statistics (such as an estimated finishing date, and approximate daily words needed to finish in time). You can also join your region and meet a bunch of people in your area who are also taking part in this event. Which leads me to;

2: Join your local region

Writing doesn’t have to be a solitary pursuit. It can be even more fun to do with other people around you, who you can bounce ideas off of or ask for feedback. Your local ML (Municipal Liaison) will plan write-in events throughout the month, as well as some more casual social gatherings, and also offer online support on the official forums and possibly a Facebook group, depending on your region. I’ve made many new writer friends through these events, whom I catch up with during the rest of the year as well. So it’s definitely worth getting involved.

3: Plan

Even if you’re someone who likes to just sit down and write whatever comes to mind, novel writing is a Big Ordeal. Those 50,000 words will feel mountainous, unless you break it down. Planning as much as you can before November will make your month far less stressful, but if over-planning saps your motivation to actually write the thing, try just creating a loose plot outline and character sketches. And even if you do plan in great detail, don’t be afraid of throwing way that plan if you think of something better as you go.

4: Pace yourself

It’s tempting to want to lock yourself away all month and do nothing but write, but this isn’t sustainable nor particularly healthy. Make sure you take breaks from your work to eat and drink properly, see friends and give your hands and brain a rest. If you’re balancing NaNo with full time work and/or managing children, you may have to get really great at fitting in writing where you can. But don’t go so hard that you give yourself RSI. NaNo isn’t worth physically injuring yourself over.

5: Don’t Panic

If you fall behind, miss a few days, or even start after November 1, don’t panic. There’s still time to catch up. You can do this. As mentioned, the website will tell you how many words per day you will need to finish on time. Doubling your daily target a few times can make up for a few days when you were too busy to sit down at your computer. Some people can only write on weekends because of weekday commitments. Whatever your life demands, you can still do it. Just take a deep breath and go.

6: Have Fun

NaNoWriMo is meant to be a fun challenge. If you’re finding yourself exceedingly stressed out, step back and evaluate if it is realistic for you to force yourself to do. If 50,000 is too long, try setting your own goals. The Camp NaNo events, (held in April and July) allow you to specify your own word goal on the website, but you can still aim for whatever you want to aim for in November. This is entirely a personal challenge after all. No one is policing what you do. No one will dob you in for doing it differently. And even if you don’t make it to your goal at the end of the month, that’s still okay. Ultimately any words you wrote are words you didn’t have before you started this challenge, and that’s amazing. The discount code prizes for “winning” are pretty nice but the real prize is the work you wrote during this time.

No matter how you go this month, NaNoWriMo is about building a regular writing habit, and engaging with other writers about this art form you all love so much. So give it a go. Take the excuse to sit down with that novel idea you’ve always wanted to write ‘if you had time’, and see what happens. Lock away your inner editor and just start typing. As a wise person once said, you can’t edit a blank page.

 


Words by Simone Corletto

Simone Corletto is an Adelaide-based YA and Science-Fiction writer. She spends her spare time crocheting lumpy hats, writing about teenage superheroes, and telling people about her science degree. She tweets at @SimCorWrites