While You Were Reading

When it’s cold and rainy outside there is nothing better than curling up on the couch with a good book and a cup of tea*. Having seen While You Were Reading all over social media, I finally gave in and picked up a copy so I could do just that. While You Were Reading is writer duo Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus’s second book together after The Book Ninja.

There’s just something heart-warming about reading rom-coms in familiar settings.  Seeing these conventional rom-com women in locations I could easily find myself in gives the story just that touch more authenticity than reading something set in another part of the world.

Beatrix Babbage is on the cusp of thirty and she’s just ruined her best friend’s wedding. It was an accident, but she’s ruined Cassandra’s life and now Cass won’t even speak to her. Feeling alone and wanting to give Cass space, Bea packs up her life and moves to Melbourne, an hour away from her sister who she gushes to   about her new marketing job—isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. While struggling to come up with slogans for toothpaste and trying to move past the office misogyny, Bea befriends local barista Dino, whose strong skinny lattes and quotes bring light to her new life.

Alone and disconnected, Bea tries to branch out, going to slam poetry events and exploring Melbournian bookshops. In The Little Brunswick Street Bookstore Bea picks up a second-hand copy of Meeting Oliver Bennett, a book that can only be described as life changing. The book is filled with annotations from its previous owner and Bea quickly falls in love with them. Desperate to the find the writer, Bea creates an Instagram account to help her find them. But the quest is short-lived and Mystery Writer pops into her life as if it were fate. His name is Zach and he works as an editor for a local publishing house. Bea is a goner – how could such a perfect man exist? And better yet, find her? It’s almost too good to be true! And maybe it is.

As much as Bea fits your traditional romantic heroine stereotypes she also takes a step back, proving to herself and the reader that despite wanting love and affection she is her own person and needs both space and fulfilling relationships with others. I think the focus on the importance of surrounding yourself with good friends is a great lesson in this book. It can be so easy to go along with what someone else wants and never consider what you want.

While I love Ruth and Philip, Martha is one of my favourite characters. Both Bea and Martha are completely at ease with their toilet-stall relationship. Everyone, no matter the industry, needs someone to vent to at work – even better if you share similar interests like Bea and Martha with their love of Jane Austen. Later in the novel when Bea bumps into Martha again it seems the perfect time for their real friendship to kick off, not just as friends but as business associates. Martha teaching Bea how to run her accounts is a great example of women helping women, and each woman in this novel is autonomous and motivated by their own goals, whether their goals are business, sustainability, or revenge.

This is a book for every book-loving romantic, with literary allusions aplenty!

 

* Ideally your cup of tea should be of the never-ending variety and forever comfortably warm. If anyone finds said cup of tea, please let me know where I can get one.


Words by Kayla Gaskell

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World

C.A. Fletcher

Hachette 2019


 

Dogs were with us from the very beginning. And of all the animals that walked the long centuries beside us, they always walked the closest.”

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World follows Griz, a dreamer who lives with his family and dogs, Jess and Jip, on an island off the Scottish coast, decades after the apocalypse has happened.

The story begins when an outsider comes to the island, apparently eager to trade, but instead makes off with Jess. After setting off in pursuit of the thief, Griz is confronted by the realities of his world and finds himself in unfamiliar territory for the first time. Griz begins his quest with an idea of what he will find, only to discover the world is not quite as he imagined. In fact, it is turned on its head.

What sets Fletcher’s tale apart from other dystopia is the strong perspective of Griz’s character voice. The book is crafted in the style of a reflective journal from Griz’s perspective, dedicated to a photograph that he finds of a boy and his dog from the ‘Before’. This creates a nice duality between past and present.

Fletcher also avoids the well-worn trope of crafting a world destroyed by nuclear warfare. Instead, he creates a refreshingly haunting setting with a world whose population has dropped suddenly and drastically with ‘the Gelding’ (similar to the reproductive dystopia of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale). This leaves behind vast, haunting landscapes and empty cities, as well as gaps in the historical narrative that are explored during Griz’s quest.

The languid pace of the story, reinforced by long stretches of writing that describe Griz at sea with only his dog Jip for company, does cause the plot to drag at times; however, this is somewhat offset by an undercurrent of tension created by Griz’s reflective narration. The reader is aware that something bad is coming, but it’s going to take its time getting there.

If you’re looking for a slower, more reflective dystopian tale, or are really fond of dogs, then this is the book for you.

3.5/5 stars


Words by Rachael Stapleton

Racing the Sun

44330028Reading Racing the Sun by J.R. Koop was like taking a deep breath of fresh air. Set in a Southern Asian inspired fantasy kingdom and with a queer love story at the centre, this Young Adult work is bright against its heavily heteronormative, and predominately Western-based peers. After the soul is stolen out of her secret lover’s chest by a sorceress bent on resurrecting the Ashen God, Rahat must race through the dangerous jungle to save both her lover and her kingdom.

Koop’s writing flows easily and is very fun to read. Her characters and their relationships, especially between family members, are engaging and well-formed. The passages with the faerie, Qaidra, were some of the book’s best they provided much of the lore and world-building background for the work. Qaidra is a being that has suffered and the glimpses into her past were sharply drawn and helped flesh out the faerie into a strikingly memorable figure. That said, I do think the world of Abrecan  could have done with a little more world-building in terms of the lore of the Gods and the significance of the faerie Rapture; at times it felt as though the author expected you to be privy to the inner workings of the world without the full breadth of that insider knowledge quite making it to the page. However, the world-building that was present was rich and interesting – Koop clearly has a vivid, active imagination and lots of love for the things she creates.

The politics of this novel – Rahat and Iliyah, her lover, are both of the ruling class but cannot be together: instead Rahat is promised to Iliyah’s brother to unite their kingdom – add tension to the plot and a desperation to Rahat that endears her to her readers. Although, again, I would have benefitted from a tiny bit more of an explanation about the things that prevent Rahat and the girl she loves from being together, especially given the reason for their separation – Iliyah’s service to a God as a dream weaver – proves to be easily dismissed at the end by the powers that be.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which felt like a good mix of Neil Gaimen, Garth Nix, and Audrey Coulthurst. There’s lots to love in Racing the Sun: the rich world of Abrecan; the sweet love story; the love and encouragement between family members; the unusual range of creatures and beasts (I loved the mechanical horses, they were my absolute favourites); the adventure. This novel is a refreshing addition to the YA genre, and I am excited to see what Koop produces next.

Four Stars.


 

Words by Riana Kinlough

An Overambitious Debut: ‘The Ruin of Kings’

The Ruin of Kings

Jenn Lyons



The Ruin of Kings
, the first title in author Jenn Lyons epic fantasy series ‘A Chorus of Dragons’, is structurally ambitious but fails to deliver on its own lofty aims. The story itself is standard fare for the fantasy genre, with dragons, magic and scheming nobles aplenty. The protagonist, Kihrin, is a seemingly ordinary boy who ends up entangled in intrigue and mayhem thanks to his secret noble heritage and much-sought-after magical item. This is all well and good. Fantasy readers are rather accepting of the old tropes, provided they’re given a fresh perspective. The question is, does Lyons deliver something new to the lost-noble-boy story?

Arguably, yes. In some ways Kihrin is a departure from the typical chosen-one lost-noble hero. For one, he isn’t insufferably righteous. In terms of the moral spectrum, he falls somewhere in the grey region: he has admirable values, like protecting his loved ones and disapproving of slavery, but he’s also up for butchering people without guilt when the situation calls for it. This places Kihrin somewhere between the goody-two-shoes hero and the darker, gore-splattered Grimdark hero. The mix is a rather nice one. Or, it could have been, if Lyons had given Kihrin the space to breathe and express himself on the page.

Kihrin is at the centre of the story, yet we never really get to know him. We know a great deal about him– in the same way a sleep-deprived university student might know a lot about King Henry VIII of England if they’ve read his whole Wikipedia page– but we know nothing beyond what happens to him. We don’t know who he is underneath it all. His thoughts and feelings rarely shine through, even though Kihrin narrates for half the book. One could argue that Lyons is merely showing Kihrin’s reservations about being open and honest about his thoughts and feelings when recounting his story – he is telling it all to a shapeshifting monster after all.

The shapeshifting monster, Talon, is the co-narrator of this book. In fact, their narrations switch from chapter to chapter. Talon recounts Kihrin’s early life –his noble heritage and the scheming world of the noble families of Quur. Talon has a little bit of sass, and her recount sometimes tends towards humour, but other than the smallest of changes, the two narration styles are almost indistinguishable. So much so that at times the only indication that we’ve switched from Talon to Kihrin is the switch from third person to first, which is a little jarring.

Besides the feeling that the characters were not fully fleshed out, there was another barrier to bar the reader from connecting with them, and this was the structure of the book.  It is, arguably, the most ambitious part of this novel. Where the story is fairly standard for fantasy, with little departure from well known tropes, the structure is vastly different from most fantasy novels. The book is split into two main storylines: Talon’s tale of Kihrin’s heritage and subsequent involvement in noble plots and Kihrin’s tale of what happened after. These two storylines are fine on their own. The problem arises when you consider that they are both told side by side. The constant switch between Talon’s storyline and Kihrin’s means that the reader spends more time sorting between the two timelines rather than engaging with the story. Something revealed in storyline A is already known in storyline B – which makes any feeling of surprise at a ‘reveal’ feel shallow. The chapters are quite short – usually only one or two scenes per chapter before the next chapter yanks the reader out of one story and into the other. The result is something over-convoluted and extremely hard to engage with. The fact that both storylines are about pieces of Kihrin’s journey means that the reader is constantly switching between the adolescent and adult versions of Kihrin, while never really getting to know either of them.

The most important part of any hero’s journey is the character’s growth in response to his or her experiences. Kihrin experiences a great deal – from encounters with demons to death cults, necromancers to evil wizards, and even dragons. All these experiences  shape his character but it’s difficult to trace these changes because of the baffling back-and-forth. In the end, who is Kihrin and why should any of us care what he’s going through?

So, was it structure alone that hollowed out Kihrin’s character and made the story suffer? Unfortunately, no. The structure of this book is certainly the height of overambitious writing, but there’s another insidious case of the author over-reaching her skill, to the detriment of her work. This is a book in which noble families and the families of magical beings plays a crucial role. This means that the reader has to learn about who was whose great-grandfather and who inter-married into which family. This complex exploration of family trees can be done well, as writers like George R. R. Martin have shown in the past. Unfortunately, in this case it was not. Lyons has constructed a network of families that are bafflingly overcomplicated. Not only are the families full of inter-related people, many of these people have multiple identities which change throughout the course of the story. It doesn’t help that her fantasy world involves magical stones that let people switch bodies with others or that every time someone switches, they change bodies with someone important to the family lines.

Consequently, there are multiple dramatic reveals of ‘oh my, he was this person all along!’ and ‘that means that person is actually that person’s dad/brother not their brother/dad’. Do this enough times in a 500+ page book and it starts to get tacky and even laughable.

Really, the problem seems to be Lyons trying to overcomplicate her story in order to make it clever. It’s an ambitious move, one that many epic and high fantasy writers are guilty of botching in the past. The sad reality is that a complex story is only as good as all the simple foundations the author has laid out to support it. If the characters and core story don’t resonate, then the book will ultimately fail: no matter how many lost princes and magical plots you throw into the mix.

Could this story have worked? Yes. It absolutely could have. Lyons had all the right pieces on the board – a fun story with some beloved tropes, characters who could have made it compelling and world building which was actually quite interesting and fresh. I believe that if she had focused on those core elements and honed them a little more then this would have been a solid start to a series. There are parts of the plot that were awkward and a little clumsily executed, but on the whole, there was enough positive content to make up for the blunders. It was the decision to turn the focus away from the foundations and onto making the book structurally complex that let the book down. It’s frustrating, really.

This was a promising book with a decent premise that lacked the needed pay-off because of the author’s overambitious approach. Will I be tuning into the next instalment? It’s a reluctant maybe from me.

 

2.5 stars


Words by Lisandra Linde

Donnie The Dolphin

Jenna Brooke Bulfin is an Adelaide writer and mother of three and late last year her first book, Donnie the Dolphin was published by Olympia Publishers. Donnie the Dolphin is a children’s book aimed at young readers aged five and up.

The book’s purpose is to prepare children for school and encourage their individuality and help encourage them to make friends with others, despite how big and scary school can be.

Illustrated by Melanie Balestri, Donnie the Dolphin is the story of Donnie’s first few days of school. The school he attends is full of sharks though, and Donnie feels out of place with his blow-hole and curved tail. How will he ever fit in with all those mean-looking sharks? This is very much a story about difference—championing the message that it is okay to be different and being different can be cool.

This book is ideal for young children struggling to fit in at school, not only encouraging a love of reading but also demonstrating how to deal with challenging social situations, and how to talk about problems with someone you trust.

 


Words by Kayla Gaskell

To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme

To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme

Kristin Martin

Illustrations by Joanne Knott

Glimmer Press 2019


 

To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme is a children’s poetry collection, the first published with new publishing company, Glimmer Press. Written by Kristin Martin, the collection is divided into rhyming and and non-rhyming poems. The poems are open, visual, and easy to follow for young readers. Accompanied by Joanne Knott’s delicate illustrations, To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme easily captures the imagination.

Taking on a naturalistic bent, the poetry is told through the eyes of a child as they experience the world around them. From frogs and lizards to backyard cricket against a backdrop of the setting sun, everything is fascinating to the child narrator. Martin’s writing oozes with imagery as it reflects the world in which she lives, celebrating the beaches, the family holidays, and the wild-life in her own backyard.

While some of the poems are little sparks of light, fun rhymes, and experiences we’ve all had growing up, others are more educational. In some, Martin examines cloud formations and the rain cycle. In others, she takes young readers though explorations about different types of animals, drought, and how simply shifting your perspective can take you to an art-gallery in the sky.

Knott’s illustrations are realistic, intricate, and instantly recognisable. They are a beautiful and well-chosen accompaniment for Martin’s poetry without distracting from the imagery that comes from the words themselves.

For older readers, the book is a reminder of what it is to be young and captivated by all of the things we now take for granted. Martin’s poetry is a reminder of the time when we saw the trees and the sky and clouds as something magical. Through her words, we remember how captivating Australian wild-life is. To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme puts us back in touch with our inner child and reminds us to pause and appreciate the world around us.

A teacher herself, Martin’s poems are a perfect way to introduce children to the beauty and versatility of poetry and the written word. As the book progresses, different kinds of poetry are showcased, beginning with, as previously mentioned, rhyming and non-rhyming poetry, and advancing to non-rhyming poetry which plays with format and shape.

Easy to read aloud and boasting the type of mesmerising imagery that helped me fall in love with reading myself, I can’t wait to show my nieces and nephews.


Words by Kayla Gaskell

To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme is available to purchase through Glimmer Press.

A Booklovers Comedy Show

Connecting with people about books can be tricky. Sometimes people don’t like to reveal the books that they have a secret flaming passion for, or they like to hide behind books that they label a classic. However, all these literary expectations can be forgotten for the one hour that A Booklovers Comedy Show speaks.
Hidden away in a corner of the labyrinthine National Wine Centre, I discovered others who were just as fanatic about books and writing as I was. Featuring four comedic acts and one very friendly host, A Booklovers Comedy Show had me in silent, knee slapping laughter.
The crowd was quickly separated into groups; from the weekly book club devotees to the fantasy lovers to the something in between. The first two acts were Luke Morris, with his ample knowledge of wine making and unfortunate dating stories, and the bouncy Maddie HW, who joked about her experiences with starting stand up comedy. Following these, I had the pleasure of experiencing the defiantly Canadian Gillian English talking about how utterly Shakespeare is undeservedly milked; and she’s got a degree in Shakespeare, so I’d listen to her if I were you. Also gracing the stage was MC Hammersmith, the world’s skinniest and nerdiest creative rapper!
You do not have to know much about classy books to go to this show. The content is relatable and comes from all over the world. The acts change about each night, so each is something of a rarity with something new to see and hear.
If you have ever read a book, or never really liked the pompous and over-hyped Shakespeare, then this show is for you. Such a mixed crowd and the intimate space allows for a mixture of comedy and truth-telling that is unique and favourable.
If you’d like to see a comedy that will lighten up your night, I would recommend A Booklovers Comedy Show. Four stars from me!

 


Words by Sarah Ingham

Four stars.

A Booklovers Comedy Show is playing at the National Wine Centre every night until March 2 (excluding February 21). Tickets are available here.

Flights of Fancy and a Writer’s Imagination

Possibilities

A notice pops up in my inbox, something unexpected: a call for applications for a month’s writer’s residency in Granada, Spain, the city I first visited twelve years ago. Suddenly, I am transported there. I can fully imagine myself being the resident writer, speaking my intermediate-level Spanish, participating in local literary events, adding some more to the writing about Spain that I have already done.

I am so fully taken by such a possibility that during the night I start to feel anxious. I worry about leaving home to travel across the world and all that I would have to organise to make that possible, as well as all the things I would miss about home. It plays out in my mind like a movie, drives me crazy, my imagination giddy with anticipation. I toss and turn as my mind wanders in and out of potential scenarios: the long flight alone; the writer’s room near the university; whether I’d be able to make a cup of tea (should I take my thermos?); the weather; the clothes I would  wear; the people I’d meet; the activities, seminars, readings, or various social events. Would my Spanish would hold up? Would Marina, my flamenco dance teacher, be able to recommend a class I could attend?

 

Anxious and willing

Anxiety is both a physical and mental experience. Once I remember to breathe, my thoughts become clearer. All that seemed confusing or impossible during the night seems lighter and more manageable to me in the morning. I remind myself that people travel all over the world all the time, for work, for pleasure – a month here, two weeks there, ten days elsewhere. It’s no big deal. The distance, the time, the different culture.

I have useful conversations about this possible adventure being realized. What an opportunity, if it were to come off, if it all fell into place. I meet with a fellow writer at a local café and we speak in Spanish about the trip. A good thing for me to be practising if I am going to have discussions or readings or give lectures in Granada. In the meantime, I hope for peace, equanimity and courage.

 

Commitments

I have made a commitment. I have written and organised my application. Three people have written letters of recommendation. I send it all in five attachments to Carmen, the contact person in Granada, and I wait for a response. Did she receive it? It’s there in the outbox saying it has been sent, but how can I know for sure? It’s the last month of winter here, but perhaps over there she’s on holiday, escaping the August heat wave?

If I were to be chosen, I would travel across the globe to the south of Spain and spend November in Granada. This is when I could do with more of the subjunctive in English: if I were to be chosen I would take my work about Spain and share it with Spanish writers, readers and audiences. I would risk the exposure this would entail and the possible criticism for it being inappropriate or for misunderstanding their culture. I would risk being misunderstood myself. Or perhaps they’d appreciate it.

I have made a commitment for this experience to throw further light on my work. I have made a commitment to be immersed in the Spanish language, to participate in the cultural life of Granada, as much as opportunity will allow. I have made a commitment to write, to read, to research and to communicate my interests as clearly as possible.

I have made a commitment to sleep on my own in a foreign city, to face the night demons if necessary, to rely on my inner reserves of strength and to remain open. I have made a commitment to uncertainty.

Chances are this trip will not happen.

I am only one amongst many applicants from around the world. I already know I will be disappointed if I don’t go, even knowing I’ll be nervous if I do. I am preparing myself practically and psychologically for the journey. Now that the application has been sent, I feel a sense of space. Along with all the others it will be considered. What will be, will be. I will stay focused. I feel surprisingly neutral.

I turn to face the wind.

I push myself into it, pleased with the effort.

 

What if . . .

I begin to wonder again, what if they don’t approve of what I have written about their country, their culture, their iconic poet? What if they are offended by this work from an outsider to their culture? Sensitive topics, sensitive themes. I’ll have to risk what little reputation amongst friends, colleagues and readers I might have, lay it on the line. Yet in the end this application might be nothing more than a process. Time will tell.

I need not have worried about my application disappearing into digital space. I guessed rightly that the staff had been on holidays all of August, and as it turned out, early September too; and anyway, as Carmen explained to me on the phone when I eventually rang, in her casual, friendly, no-nonsense Spanish way, also the weather had been a pain because it had been too hot. Too hot to do anything.

 

Yesterday’s surprise

Yesterday’s surprise was that I look as old as I am. If in doubt, just see my latest passport photo. See how my face has lost its roundness, see all the new lines and folds in the skin, like a crumpled piece of waxed paper, moist enough, but too thin to resist gravity. Line up all the old passport photos: 23, 43, 63 . . . see how I’ve progressed through the decades from a black-haired, young woman to one of late middle age, happy to have made it this far, but astonished at the changes nonetheless. We like to say that photos are deceiving and perhaps they are, the camera can manipulate, but so can our eyes – our failing eyes – when we look into the mirror in a favourable, softening light, instead of the stark white light that lays the truth bare, reminding us of the ultimate journey we all have to take. I celebrate being here now. I celebrate all that makes life a curious wonder, including my changing self.

 

Equanimity

Today I have reached the peak on the mountain of equanimity. On the mountain that overlooks our river-city of Hobart, I sit, listen and look around, just one small being; here temporarily, in this ancient, natural world, breathing in the scent of solid earth, grounding myself. My vivid imagination is both a gift and a burden, the weight of some possible scenario carried like a back-pack full of provisions “just in case”. The waiting game is a strange place to be. Things come in their own time. There are people waiting all over the world to take the next step: waiting for permission, for rain, for answers, for love or compassion. Waiting and hoping. Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us that ultimately there is nothing to chase after, that we can go back to ourselves and enjoy our breathing. So for now I am here on this solid mountain listening. Listening to the birds and the breeze, absorbing the peace. Equanimity. We come. We go. I am one being in a magnificent universe. Here now, beyond thinking, beyond anticipating. Que sera, sera.

 

Soy escritora (I am a writer)

I am, at this point in my life, able to live everyday freely and as I chose. In our culture people like to say they are busy, that they are active because it tells themselves and others they somehow live a worthy life. What do you do? is one of the first questions we ask people when we are getting to know them. I no longer join the flow of people in the mornings on their way to paid work. For the past 18 years I have been finding my way in the world of books and literature, writing, reading and publishing my work, participating in the literary life of my community. This is how I spend most of my time. Every now and then I still have to remind myself of what this means. One of my first daily activities is to write sitting up in bed, looking out my window at my neighbourhood valley and, with my fine-point pencil, discover the words that are ready to fall onto the smooth, inviting paper of my notebook. Call it a task and it already sounds more acceptable to our culture’s work ethic. Call it work. But I have always wanted my life, this one life, to be more than just a list of tasks that get ticked off every day. I want spontaneity, uncertainty, freedom. The purpose of being a writer is to be a writer which means writing, reading and thinking from morning until night. But also, of course, attending to those “dear tasks of continuance” so affectionately described by Denise Levertov, that keep body and mind together and sometimes spark some unexpected flash of inspiration. The question in Spanish is: to what are you dedicated?  To answer this in English is to uncover another side to the question what do you do? In my life I am dedicated to writing and literature, learning Spanish, learning the art of flamenco dance, creating gardens, maintaining my home, responding to injustice, having good relationships with friends and family, looking after myself. I am no longer the frustrated writer with little time to herself. I am the poet with space and time, my work is out in the world finding places to be. I feel most purposeful when I’m writing a poem or a piece of prose. Who am I still trying to convince? Perhaps my internal critic who tugs at my confidence as I wait to have my application considered by an international panel of judges.

 

Life is what happens . . .

The silence of a sun-lit morning is like a prayer. My eyes drink in its astonishing beauty. These last few weeks I’ve been thinking about death, about life ending or transforming as Thich Nhat Hanh says and how each day of our lives is precious. We have had a significant death in the family, our dear, elderly father-friend. A man with a loving smile and of gentle persuasion. To be the eternal writer-witness, not only of other people, events and things but also of yourself, gives me a serious gaze. I feel the need to smile and laugh more. Every thought, every act, every word carries a signature says the wise monk. Anne means grace. Can I live up to my name?

 

The significance of zero

Today is the day the selection panel will announce their decision. It is still night time in Granada but already it feels like the answer is “no”. I’ve been ahead of myself these last few months, anticipating a time to come that for all intents and purposes is not going to happen for me. On this side of the world we are always ahead of agreed time. And for these last few months I have been, in my mind, three-quarters convinced that I would soon be in the opposite time zone, leaving the brighter, longer spring days here for the shorter late-autumn days there. Now I feel sure I am not going to be making that journey. All should be confirmed by tonight. And all my practical preparation to date will be for naught – the books, the plans, the ideas for workshops and projects. Perhaps not for naught entirely. Zero is a significant number. A chance to begin again.

 

El compromiso

How to tempt fate? Name it, decide on an alternative course of action, pretend you are taking initiative,(water the garden so it will rain), make other plans, reach a conclusion, a compromise – only to have fate shout back at you. “But wait!” Wait another week as it extends the question mark over your life for a few more days. Let me just trick and tire you out, it says, deflate your new resolve, stretch it out, beyond the limit. We’re on Spanish time here. In Spanish compromiso means promise not compromise. Beware of false friends. Suddenly I feel tired of it all: of being ahead of myself. The waves of adrenalin have worn me out. I’m ready to go but will I be going? I’m over it. Over it.

 

The Art of Living

This morning, in this part of the world in our little city beneath the mountain it is blessedly quiet. I have slept and woken again. The Earth has turned. Again, I have arrived at D-day, the extended D-day. I’m sure I know the decision already and it’s time to leave this strange land of waiting. Time to let go. For the past three months I have been encapsulated in a bubble of possibility. Time to burst the bubble. Time to become un-encapsulated. This year has been a year of waiting for all sorts of things: replies from publishers, application results, calls from the hospital. The art of waiting involves effort and patience. As does the art of writing. Lorca once proclaimed, “true poetry, true effort, renunciation.” A writer recognises these sentiments. I have learnt that the art of waiting takes me to the present moment, wherein is found the art of living. I smile at the cloud in my tea.

 

Re-viewing

I am not going to Granada in November. As I had strongly suspected by the end, I was not one of the two writers selected out of, what turned out to be, seventy international applicants. Time to relinquish all that build-up. Time to close the file. Time to wind down, to sleep more peacefully. Time to return to my life in this small city with its own concerns. Time to reflect on the power of the imagination and how it can draw you into its intricately, detailed and convincing world, a world that is as big or as small as you want it to be, but a make-believe world nonetheless.

 

November 2018.


Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

Words by Anne Collins

anne-collins-photo.jpgAnne Collins’ last book of poems The Language of Water (2014) tells the story of a modern day odyssey. Her two earlier poetry collections are titled Seasoned with Honey (with three other poets, 2008) and The Season of Chance (2005). Her landscape memoir titled My Friends This Landscape (2011) is a collection of prose and poetry. A forthcoming collection of poetry How to Belong will be published in 2019. Her manuscript (prose and poetry) with the Spanish themes is currently under consideration.

 

Restarting Your Creativity: Part III

PART THREE: FINDING MOTIVATION

Some advice I was given (and tried my best to follow) is to write something, anything every single day. Writing is like sport, and like any sport you need to practice to get good. Sometimes this might be a few thousand words, sometimes a paragraph or a sentence or even a single word. Everyone works in different ways but the surest and strongest way to get started is to do just that. Start. And everything starts somewhere.

These are some ways in which you can find your motivation today!

1.) Clean your workspace

It sounds counter-productive and sometimes it is. If your workspace isn’t how you want it, it might put you off for days, weeks, or even months. Clean it. Tidy it. Make sure it’s not a distraction.

2.) Set yourself a challenge

As with finding time, challenges can be very handy to motivate you. If you need to get 3,000 words done by Friday and you have a friend holding you to it, you’re not going to want to disappoint that friend. Generally you have an understanding of your own working ability so it is up to you to set yourself a goal or challenge that you will realistically meet. If you are a slow writer you might aim for 500 words or a page a day, or if you’re a quick writer a few thousand words might not be too ambitious. But a challenge that works for you won’t necessarily work for everyone.

 

3.) Enter a competition

Competitions give you deadlines not just for a word count but for a polished copy of whatever it is you’re writing. Working towards this deadline, in theory, means working towards a deadline of at least one week ahead and then taking the time to edit thoroughly before submission. Even if you don’t end up entering your work you put the time and effort into creating it.

4.) Ask a friend or family member to read your work

This would also appear on a lot of lists of what not to do. But in the end you want to be motivated right? You want to hear about how much talent you have and how wonderful you are. So get someone who loves you to read your work and bask in their praise. Hopefully, if you push on, people who don’t know you will also want to praise you.

5.) Tell someone about your writing

In telling someone about your project you’re making it real. They might remember and ask you how the writing is coming along. Plus, if you’re talking about it you’re thinking about it, and if you’re thinking about it you’re working on it. Don’t worry if it comes to nothing or if you switch from one project to another, just keep voicing those ideas.

6.) Read good books

Writers are always encouraged to be constantly reading. The advantage of this is you’re surrounding yourself with good writing, which encourages you to also produce good writing. As I mentioned in Rediscovering your Inspiration, reading something that provokes you (in a good or bad way) is also helpful. It encourages you to do better and to respond to the work. The caution here of course is to let yourself read bad books, but not bad writing. Bad books make you want to do better (and destroy your faith in humanity), but bad writing is just… bad.

7.) Read literary magazines

Find out what’s going on in the writing world and stay in touch with it. Know it’s where you belong and stay there. You might write highly experimental literary fiction and find places like The Lifted Brow and (increasingly) Voiceworks a great comfort. Or you might prefer Meanjin, Kill Your Darlings, or Overland, there are plenty of literary magazines out there. You might even just want to stay up to date with Tulpa Magazine (we have a newsletter, you should sign up!). Whatever you decide to do, keep literary magazines in mind—we certainly have plenty to offer. Tulpa is currently free to read, and other places (if you don’t want to pay subscription fees) are generally available in your library.

8.) Stop reading

Yes I am contradicting my earlier point. If you’re like me (constantly reading) you might find that this motivates you to write. You’re so used to being in a story that you need to write just to get back into the zone. You’ll be desperate to finish your project just so that you can escape back into a good book.

9.) Have a plan

Some writers are pantsers and some are planners. Know which one you are and how much planning you need to have done in order to succeed. If you’re a pantser hold on tight to your idea, sit down, and start writing. If you’re a planner, like me, you might want to have a highly detailed plan and over-write the hell out of your piece. As long as it works for you it works!

10.) Have a write-in

You might work best on your own but there is seriously nothing like writing with others. Hearing other keyboards going, pens scraping paper, having the occasional chat and talking about your work is always a wonderful experience. I’ve personally found this can also work well with visual artists because you’re all doing something creative and losing yourself in your work in the same way. Writers SA run a write-in called TWELVE each quarter where you spend twelve hours working on a creative project. Alternately Simone Corletto and Mhairi Tocher run a regular virtual write-in called the YA Jungle which you are welcome to follow along with. To find out more check out their website.

One of the biggest things I would like for you to take from my Restarting Your Creativity series is that you are more than capable of writing. You can finish your project. You can find the time, inspiration, and motivation to fulfill your goals. There are so many things you can do to get yourself ready to write but the easiest and most effective thing to do is to just sit down and write. Make the time, get inspired, and get motivated.


Art by Rhianna Carr

Words by Kayla Gaskell

Kayla Gaskell is an Adelaide based writer and reviewer whose work has appeared in Empire Times, Readplus, Buzzcuts, Where’s Pluto, and now Tulpa.

 

OTHER PARTS IN THIS SERIES:

Part I: Finding the Time to Write

Part II: Rediscovering your Inspiration

 

The Art of Taxidermy

The Art of Taxidermy

Sharon Kernot
Text Publishing 2018


Sharon Kernot’s Young Adult verse novel The Art of Taxidermy offers an intimate look at the mechanisms of grief and how it can make you strange. Charlotte is just thirteen, has lost her mother and her younger sister, and is obsessed with making the dead look alive again. Her obsession leads her to collect, and then later taxidermize dead animals she finds in the bush surrounding her Australian home. Her aunt is horrified by this behaviour, but her distant father defends it as the burgeoning habits of a young scientific mind. Kernot makes the collection of the dead feel like a natural extension of Charlotte’s grief and pain; much like the meddling of Charlotte’s aunt and the distance of her father is an extension of theirs. The desire to resurrect the dead with whatever means available is both naively young and incredibly human, and Kernot explores it with a matter-of-fact tenderness.

It is not only their grief that makes Charlotte and her family strange. They are German immigrants and her father and grandfather were interned in the Loveday camp, near Barmera on the Murray River. The verse novel is set in the years after the second World War ended and the family’s German heritage marks them as different, as Other. It’s hard to imagine this family living outside this deep saturation of sadness – their tragedies started before Charlotte was born and it feels as though they will continue long after she’s dead.

Kernot paints a family in freefall after the unthinkable has happened, not once but twice, with a sure and steady brush. The work couples the swift, clipped charm of a verse novel and the unpredictable beauty of the Australian landscape in a captivating manner that showcases an author entirely comfortable with her form. This is a novel easily consumed in an afternoon, but one that lingers in the mind for weeks afterwards.

The Art of Taxidermy is due for release July 2 and can be purchased from Text Publishing here.

The book will be launched July 18 at the Tea Tree Gully Library from 6:30pm click here for more information.

5/5 stars


Words by Riana Kinlough