Monday, 29 August 2011

Choking on my words

Melbourne Writers’ Festival 2011 is a smorgasbord of words; lots to pile onto our crafty plates; lots to digest. I listen to the writers who constitute ‘fine dining’—best selling authors, they’ve done the work and are deserving of their success. I gorge on the wisdom of the craft they spread before the audience. Sometimes I get so full, I give myself indigestion. I wonder how much more feasting the writing world can handle. Will the table collapse under the weight? Is there room for one more morsel, for that crumb of a story I have scattered onto my page? Will it sate someone’s appetite for the tale just a little? As a writer, will I give up because there is so much fine food out there? Or will I decide to practice, practice, practice, until I can whip up the perfect offering? Abandon or aim to emulate? One thing I know, hunger revisits every day. There is an audience waiting for good stories, delivered on white linen or take away containers. Chew it over then do the work. 

Friday, 19 August 2011

Friday, Freedom and Ferrari

It’s Friday and my dog, Ferrari, spends the afternoon the way I’d like to—snoozing. Ferrari’s days are filled with the same daily routine now that he’s reached dog-dotage. It’s a safe bet he has no idea it’s Friday. There’s nothing to review in his world.
For people, Friday is pivotal day, the place we stand to look back on the week or forward, to the weekend. It's freedom day for many. A day when we can consider that we’ve achieved and the things we hope to still. Friday is the full-stop on the working week. It’s the catchment grid for stories collected at work, school, appointments, meetings, shopping; mundane events and perhaps dramatic ones that change our lives; an anecdote or an apocalypse. What happened this week? What stories do we have to tell? What questions remain unanswered? What happens next? What will never happen again? 

What’s the story? 

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Did you enjoy Michael McGirr’s ‘Things you get for free’?

You can also ask lots of questions of Michael, Maureen McCarthy and Lucia Nardo for free at the upcoming Rotunda in the West - Conversations with Australian writers at August Arts
Saturday 20 August
1.30 pm for a 2.00 pm start
Wyndham Civic Centre Functions Area
45 Princes Highway Werribee

Presented by Victoria University and Wyndham City

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Words in a waning winter

Melbourne: winter tries to maintain its grip but spring arm wrestles it successfully to the tabletop. I sit at one such table on the banks of the Yarra River, soaking up a promise of more sunshine, watching and listening as a parade of locals and tourists fills the air with words and laughter; the sound a chorus to the verse of the city. I savor the taste of conversations; a morsel of a phrase, a word without a context, a line without its punch. Behind each, there’s a smorgasbord of story questions; enough to sate my notebook and fountain pen. Words emerge, thawing after winter’s heavy silence. Bliss.

Friday, 12 August 2011

What goes on in a writer’s head and heart?

Rotunda in the West – conversations with Australian writers brings writers face-to-face with audiences who love words and a great story. Here’s another opportunity to find out what goes on in a writer’s head and heart. Free event presented by Wyndham August Arts and Rotunda

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Cooking up characters

The other day I baked a cake. Unlike the chefs in my family, I didn’t make it from scratch. I confess I bought cake mix. In my defence, it was a reputable and always delicious brand. I couldn’t make up my mind between moist vanilla and smooth lemon. Being a reader, I blocked the supermarket aisle while I scoured the ingredients on both packets only to discover the oddest thing. The ingredients were exactly the same. The lists were arranged in a different order but that didn’t fool me. It got me to wondering what distinguished them aside from the obvious name and slightly altered image on the packet. And when I start thinking, it always takes me back to writing. This time it was characters.

What makes your characters stand out from one another? Do they have distinct voices? What are they scared of? What makes them happy or sad? What’s important in their life? What do you want your readers to know about them? What do your characters need, want and desire? What can’t they live without? What makes the reader care about them? What do you know about them? How are you going to find out more about them? I've learned much about developing characters by listening to other writers to stop characters being sliced from the same cake. Something that works for me is writing a few pages as if the character is telling me about his or her life. Not all of this information is used but it makes great background information when I'm writing scenes.

Sometimes it takes me a while to build a relationship with my characters. The relationship is as real to me as any I have. I have to interact with my character to get to know him or her. Some I've taken to easily, others have had to grow on me. There are times I look for them in the street. I wonder what they would do in any given situation. 

Like baking a cake, you can start off with the basic mix, mix it up, raise the temperature and wait for it all to rise. And for those who really want to know, I chose moist vanilla. It was scrumptious but only after I added a few extra ingredients of my own. I finally figured that the difference in the cakes mixes was the additives in the icing’ I didn’t use the icing. 

For me, the flavour should be in the body.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

So you think you have a story to tell?

Want to ask a writer some tricky questions? 
Here's a FREE Question & Answer event at which you can:

Michael McGirr: Lost art of Sleep/Things you get for free
Maureen McCarthy: Chain of Hearts/When you wake and find me gone
Lucia Nardo: Heart to Heart/Soul Sisters/Ada Cambridge Prize
Saturday 20 August 2011
2pm for 2.30pm start

Wyndham Civic Centre
45 Princes Hwy
Werribee (Melways 206 B7)
or 0422 29 86 43

Presented by: 
Rotunda in the West: Conversations with Australian Writers
Professional Writing and Editing (TAFE), Victoria University & Wyndham City Council August Arts

More information about Rotunda events is at ‘Rotunda West’ on Facebook 

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Wake your words from slumber

 Blossom reminds a suburban street that it’s stirring after a long winter sleep. The heater is off and the sunglasses are on. Just when you think you can’t handle it any longer—something gives:
The temperature climbs, 
You’re blinded by inspiration, 
The cold blocks dissipate,
You’re hot again. 
Get those fingers moving: type, write. 
Wake your words from slumber.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Many happy returns

It’s my birthday but not the sort you think. I had a mechanical heart valve inserted ten years ago today so I figure I'm ten years old. That gives me the right to be imaginative and full of dreams. I can choose to avoid an adulthood in which the world says: don’t, can’t, shouldn’t, mustn’t— Bliss! It’s simple but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. I've had unfailing support from family and friends and a whole medical team behind the scenes who helped save my life. Aside from the surgeon, anesthetist and cardiologist, I’ll never know who they are but I often think about them. Thanks guys! Sometimes the changes forced on us give us the best opportunities to develop our character. I'm not sure where mine’s at for now because the recovery hasn’t been easy. There are people who bounce back quickly from this type of ‘routine’ surgery. Routine for the medical profession not the patient! I didn’t bounce so well so I have days when having a whinge is something I do spectacularly well. I’ve learned to limit the time I spend on self-pity before moving on to deciding what attitude I want to take in a situation. Time is precious and I've got things to do – even if it’s within new limits.  Mostly I've learned that every breath is a bonus. 
I might go bake myself a cake.