Welcome, Brother

‘Welcome, brother.’

Breaks your heart to think they were the last words he spoke – this man who apparently fled war-torn Afghanistan, survived and found a home in New Zealand, only to be cut down by a violent, deranged terrorist who could not tolerate anyone holding beliefs other than those in his own scrambled mind.

Welcome, brother.

There are no words for this horrendous event that have not already been spoken. But there is a need to say something, because 49 (perhaps more) people are dead for no other reason than that they prayed in a mosque.

Welcome, brother.

I’m not sure of the exact source of these oft used words, but every conflict, every act of intolerance and cruelty can be framed in this way: I have seen the enemy, and he is one of us. (A variation of the phrase used by Walt Kelly’s cartoon character, Pogo).

Far right extremism dominates the world news. Religious extremists, anti-immigration extremists, Islamaphobes – all on opposing sides yet they share so much: hatred, intolerance, self-righteousness, desire for violence. This is not all-out war, countries siding against other countries World War style. They don’t seek oil, diamonds, spices, or to redress a perceived wrong, avenge an assassination, or claim land for expansion. These are skirmishes from the fringes of madness where the intent is on nothing other than holding their own belief space.

The once fermenting, yet still shapeless, ideologies of white supremacists have now been given shape, emboldened by the far right under the guise of free speech, PC gone mad, conspiracy theories. It seems an enemy always needs to be created. Even if they are one of us. The creation of Muslim invaders, illegal boat people, Muslim terrorists must have seemed a neat opportunity to create an aura of fear, of them and us, before an election. Just as it was prior to the Victorian State election when African immigrants were scapegoated for so called out of control crime in Victoria. The backlash for that cheap trick was massive electoral embarrassment. The backlash now is far greater, far more horrendous than mere electoral loss.

Years of slow fermentation began when it seemed Hansen could take votes from the LNP and Howard’s response was to push further right to reclaim any potential straying voters. The fact that it seemed to work as an electoral strategy, meant that the blueprint was followed by successive conservative governments – the current government honing that ‘skill’ to the sharpest most dangerous weapon possible. We are all bearing the consequence of that now. The constant and deliberate use of language to demonise refugees (some of whom were Muslim) insidiously crept up on us until the lid flew off and racism and intolerance were unleashed. Now tolerated as some sort of normal and valid belief or sentiment. It’s okay to be white is a small step to It’s okay to hate. Followed by, and to act on that hate.

Welcome, brother.

The enemy is indeed one of us. But how easily could tolerance, humanity and compassion be the current ethos, had the government of the day said, ‘Welcome brothers and sisters,’ instead of shamelessly manipulating lies and deliberate misconceptions to create fear and distrust for short term electoral success.

The Object of Art

‘The object of art is not to reproduce reality, but to create a reality of the same intensity.’

So said Italian artist, Albert Giacometti (1901 – 1966).

The same is also true of writing, the equivalent, of course, being to show not tell. We’ve all been beaten about the head with this sage advice. We know it, yet at times we overlook it. Or perhaps we haven’t discovered the best way yet and have placed words to hold the space we know craves more. Rather than reproducing reality as it was, is, or could be, taking the reader there obliquely, through a surprising side door perhaps, generates an experience of that state or place with an intensity of being there.

To read of loss, for example, in words that tell you someone else has also lost someone or something, gives you knowledge of the loss and compassion and empathy follow. But some words show new truths; taking you back to your original state of loss, through evocation of something you’d never identified at the time, hadn’t given words to. Yet here it is now, in someone else’s words, shifting your heart sideways like a boat in a gale. I cannot read Auden’s Stop All the Clocks, Cut Off the Telephone without hearing that muffled drum, and thinking of my beloved clock-making, dog-loving, piano-playing father there in his coffin, let the mourners comePack up the moon and dismantle the sun.

Chekhov’s path of the moon on water is what moves us, not the fact of the moon being there, or to have it pointed out to us that it is indeed shining.

The stars at night may be represented pictorially in many different ways: asterisks, five pointed shapes, dots, yellow blobs of colour, and so on. On occasions, Vincent van Gogh painted the night sky and surrounds with candles fixed around his hat for illumination. His Starry Night, painted while he was a patient at a psychiatric hospital in St. Remy, explodes with swirls and spheres of light built up in dots and dashes of intense colour. The night sky takes on an intensity that is not of this reality, yet we are there – crouched under that vast sky of whirling colour and light. Van Gogh shows us Chekhov’s path of the moon on water without his work resembling the night sky of any empyreal visual we may have experienced. Northern and Southern Lights aside.

Writing that it was raining tells us the reality. To write: ‘… rain sift[ed] past the floodlight … sheets of drops like a procession of wraiths, shifting, tumbling.’ (Anthony Doerr in About Grace, p. 63) Doerr describes that rain with an intensity that takes you there – you are an alien in a world of silvery shifting shadows, drops of rain seeping uncomfortably down the back of your neck.

Anyone who knows those first days of new motherhood recognises that far sea in Sylvia Plath’s Morning Song: ‘All night your moth-breath / Flickers among the flat pink roses. / I wake to listen: / A far sea moves in my ear. / One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral / In my Victorian nightgown. / Your mouth opens clean as a cat’s.’

This, then, is the writer’s aim: to find the words, and the order to express, in a way that is not the thing in itself or the state of being, but something seen in a sideways glance. Some new truth. To explore this, delve deeper and expose what is there for all of us, though we may not have seen it at the time, lost as we were in our love, loss, fear or hope. But we know when we read it from others, as an intense reality is recreated, leaving us envious that we had not written those words ourselves.

Better, Bigger, Shinier

When I was young, my sister and I were taken into town to select fabric and a pattern each from the haberdashery (great word! should be used more often) and then taken to the seamstress (though I think we called her the sewer) who miraculously whipped the material into a replica of the dresses in the patterns. This was possibly a once-off occasion; I remember the excitement of standing at the bench looking at the rolls of fabric, and the amazing feeling of freedom – I could choose any one I liked. I have a vivid memory of that dress – the material was a pattern of squares, triangles and circles in multiple colours. The dress had a pleat at the front and a yoke, and something about the neckline that eludes me now, makes my visual memory slide about – was it a collar? I can see it out the corner of my mind’s eye, but it slips away when I try to look at it directly. I also remember clearly my sister’s corresponding dress – a tent dress (very fashionable at the time) lime green background and paisley design in hot pink, blue and yellow. I remember this well for two reasons: I hoped to inherit it one day; and the left over fabric had been used by my father under the wire mesh of the speaker in the record player cabinet. Long after the dress had been cast aside, the speaker cloth, in all its psychedelic glory, reminded us of that tent dress.

I also remember an orange acrylic bracelet I received, at a primary school concert, from Santa’s sack. It was a heavy bracelet, thick and shiny with wisps of various shades of orange drifting through it. I remember the weight of it in my hands, on my wrist. I no longer have the bracelet so I can’t check to see if it actually looks like that, or if that is simply the picture of it in my memory, embroidered over time. I’m not sure if my father went out and bought the present himself (it wasn’t a generic gift, it had my name on the paper) or if he left that to an aunt, grandmother or a neighbour, in the absence of my mother. But if it was his idea, he got it so right. I kept that bracelet for many years, wearing it again when chunky bright-coloured jewellery came back into fashion in the 80’s or maybe it was the 90’s. But again that could be a fabrication. Did I just wish I had that orange bracelet when I saw it could be fashionable again? I can’t actually remember getting rid of it. I just know that I do not have it now, and wish that I did. To check the actual with the visual memory. I recall sitting with the bracelet on my wrist, looking down at it, turning it around. But I can’t remember what I wore, who I sat beside. Just the thrill of a gift. A beautiful one. And now I can barely remember what gifts I was given for Christmas last year

We’ve developed such an appetite for the accumulation of stuff, that single gifts or purchases rarely leave such a vivid memory. Yes, age plays a part in this. The nostalgia of childhood polishes those gifts into such singularly memorable gems. But the rampant consumerism of the modern age deadens the sparkle of any individual gift or item. There is always something more; something better, bigger, shinier. We are all the fat, spoilt boy in Harry Potter, counting his gifts and declaring, but last year, last year there were 37!  Rarely do we have that singular remembrance, an isolated bubble treasuring the only one.

Stuff – so much. Too much.

How did we come to develop such a desire for stuff? And I don’t mean when we stopped leading a nomadic existence and could settle in one place where stuff could be useful as well as a thing of beauty: a carved shelf to put the pestle and mortar on, a curved hook to hang the dried herbs, or a second pot in case the first was being used. And all these things can be remarkable versions of the ordinary – tools of necessity rendered significant, beautiful. But do we really need 15 cushions on the bed, 56 pairs of earrings, a second or third television because everyone might want to watch different stuff, an array of ornaments of various sizes and shapes, countless plug-in scent diffusers or scented candles, etc. And amongst all this stuff – plastic. Lots of it. Now China is no longer going to take our rubbish and recycle it into more plastic stuff that we can buy back from them. We may have to find our own way of dealing with our preposterous waste problem. Our disposable culture, our failure to look to the future. To be able to respond in a way that is sustainable for the planet and not just for a moment’s delight and indulgence. To be able to look back and know the value of a shiny bracelet, the shapes and patterns in a long ago fabric, when there was so little. But just the right amount too.

El Camino – Looking for Nothing


‘I was looking for nothing when I set off for Santiago de Compostela, and I found it.’

Jean-Christophe Rufin.

I’d written this on the first page of my journal before beginning the 790 km walk across Spain. Despite advice to be clear on reasons for tackling El Camino, given the exacting nature of the journey, I hadn’t thought about it much beyond hoping I could rise to a challenge, practise my Spanish. I was no pilgrim in the true sense of the word; it wasn’t religious, it wasn’t even spiritual. I didn’t expect to return a changed person. I can walk, I thought, I like walking. I can ride a bike – you don’t forget how to do that. But I’d forgotten we’d be crossing the Pyrenees on day one – well, the foothills anyway, a steady steep climb for about 32 kms. Beginning at St Jean Pied de Port, just over the French border; a pretty little medieval village with its window boxes of bright geraniums, shutters, stone arches and cobbled streets. We took the Route de Napoleon, the steepest and most difficult route away from the village.

The views from that climb were spectacular: wind turbines lazily turning, drift of fog over the valleys below, the blend of colours on the hills from lavender to brown to green, moss covered trunks of beech forests, and always the hovering clouds to show just how high we were – we rose to 1950 metres eventually. Along the sides of the track always the tangled bracken and blackberries, rose-hips, wild strawberries, fennel and nettles. No pilgrim need ever go hungry along the way: almond, walnut and chestnut trees, apple and pear trees, plump blackberries. And right near the top of our climb that day, a caravan covered in fake rock, with a coffee machine, cold beer, and muffins.

But what goes ever onward and up, must inevitably come down. And following the climb was a knee-jerking stumble downhill that seemed to go on forever until we finally came to Roncevalles and a beautifully restored old monastery. No lift and a room on the 3rd floor made it seem an impossibility that I would be able to wrestle my heavy luggage up those stairs. But it was done, with much swearing. Lying in the silence of my room after that first day, I wondered whether I would be able to get up in the morning to do it all again. My feet, though not blistered, felt like two tubs of cement had settled around them. Lying down before dinner wasn’t a good idea. It was very difficult to rise again, though the meal and especially the wine made it all worthwhile.

The following morning my feet had returned to normal and the pains of the day before were forgotten. This was to be the process for the next 35 days – discomfort, doubt, recovery. And always the thought in the back of my mind that I would make it, despite the aching joints, despite the feeling at times that every bone in my feet had been broken. I’m a fit person. But I don’t normally walk 20 to 30 kms each day for days on end. Of course, riding a bike (which we did for 7 days) brought with it a whole new range of pains that made me never want to see another bike, ever. And riding into a strong wind on a bike was indescribably difficult! So was lugging it up and over steep rocky terrain.

When the heat was relentless and the shade minimal, I’d find myself looking at my feet, then at the tiny things in front of me: a beetle crossing the track, a feather, a purple pebble, an ant, little pieces of flattened moss like coral or dead trees or the veins in the body, and, on occasions, giant black slugs at least 12 cm long and as fat as a man’s thumb. The inch by inch struggle, the competing textures of the path, the vegetation at the sides of the way. And then I’d look up: cloud topped hills, pebbled path, backpacks and hats of fellow walkers, fields of sunflowers. Listen to the sounds: mostly silence, scuff of footsteps, chiming bells on cows and goats grazing in the valleys, the tap of my necklaces knocking together sounding just like the tap-tap of walking poles, calls of Buen Camino from passersby. And once, a whisper in the long grasses, a brief time-stilled whisper, of all those pilgrims from the early ages with their wooden staves, their cloaks, beards, empty bellies and eyes on redemption or whatever called them, their sandals or bare feet slapping the earth in the same way, the same place as mine; a certain traversing of time as I walked by the grasses and the wind whispered in the way that reminds of things in the corner of your mind, things lost, or never had, but known. I had a momentary understanding then of life and The Way being one and the same; ups and downs, pain and recovery, trust and in the end we all arrive – somewhere. And that I could live like this forever: walk, eat, laugh, drink, sleep; that that is the way we all should live.

We have constructed a world of perceived urgency and spend our lives trying to overcome the effects: scented candles, yoga, massage, meditation, positive affirmations, counselling, alcohol, drugs. Just walk I say. Take a long walk and feel the blessed weight of nothingness.

Arriving in Santiago I didn’t fall to my knees or weep in relief, I wasn’t a changed person, but I hadn’t expected to be. What I found, in the silence and struggle of the walk itself, was absence. Absence of rush, timelines, forgotten passwords, traffic crush, do this survey, write this report, pay these bills, look out! there’s a speed camera. Instead there was nothing – except silence, and the absence of need for anything to be done except walk.


The Language of Imprecision


On the train recently the following conversation took place a few seats behind me.

‘I saw Joanne the other day. Oh my God!’

‘Really, oh my God!’

‘Yeah, I tried to pretend I didn’t see her but she was like, Rachel, Rachel, and I was like oh my God!’

What is it to be like oh my God? Everyone, but no-one, knows. We are no longer precise about what we feel, or say. In fact we are decidedly imprecise. Always like something. Usually like oh my God. But what is it, this state of oh-my-god-ness that we find ourselves in? And not just the pure state itself, but something like it. When did this imprecision, this inability to define ourselves, our actions or our emotions come about?

Is it the fault of politicians with all their slippery imprecision, all their fullness of time, their unAustralian judgements at the end of the day? Or is it corporate management with their innovative cutting edge project facilitation and pointless PowerPoint presentations? Or sportsmen (usually men, but perhaps it is women too) with their yeah, no and taking it one day at a time? Ready-made phrases are so common, and never challenged. So who would want to be truthful and precise when you could be asked, ‘But what do you mean?’ When you don’t want anyone to know exactly what you mean, perhaps don’t truly mean anything anyway. Politicians don’t want to be accountable for pre election statements, later when those promises can’t be fulfilled. Sportsmen don’t want to give away game or race plans to the media and opposition teams. And corporations can’t afford to be precise, what with so many people involved in managing, prioritising and evaluating all that imprecision. And there’s nothing like a PowerPoint presentation to always threaten to impart knowledge but never quite deliver; always like a meeting, a talk, but nothing of substance – bullet points of the bleeding obvious.

If we are always like something we are never something. Never something meaningful anyway. I imagine challenging the young woman on the train: ‘What do you mean when you say you were like oh my God? Why were you saying that?’

‘Oh, you know.’

‘No, I don’t actually.’

‘Just like … well, you know what it means. Everyone knows what it means.’ And we do too. We know without knowing anything.

But if our language is less than precise, there are other things that are extremely exact. Numbers, passwords, login user names, pin numbers, web addresses, email addresses. Get these wrong, be even minutely imprecise – omit a dot, add a dot where none exists – and your way is barred until you can be extraordinarily precise.

‘What do you mean when you say you were like oh my God?’

‘Cos, like, it was like, I felt like_’

‘Sorry, access denied!’

the Womad community

Having just spent 4 days at Womadelaide, I’ve experienced a community that actually functions as a community. Where small ‘base camps’, or squares of tarp or blankets, are shared in cramped spaces under sheltering Moreton Bay Fig trees. Where people pick up their own rubbish (mostly) and work out which bin it’s best to deposit in for the sake of the planet rather than considering how far they have to walk out of their way to do so. Where people generally walk around with smiles on their faces, even if it’s raining and they’re cold, wet and tired. The real world and its burden of things to be dealt with, does not exist for 4 days. The sole focus during that time is music, dance and art. Trump, removal of penalty rates, coral bleaching of the Reef, climate change, plight of refugees, out of touch government,  the list is endless. These things take a back seat. In fact it’s not even a back seat, it’s a trailer that’s come adrift from the vehicle and left by the roadside. Sure, we’ll pick it up again on our return, and these things will still be there. But we’ve had these weightless 4 days in a community of like-minded people. And we’ve seen how there can be a better way.

Environmental sustainability is foremost in the minds of the organisers. Womadelaide 2016 saw 98% of waste diverted from landfill. (here) There is a requirement that compostable cutlery and plates etc are used by food traders, as well as the packaging. The 3 bins: green Organics, yellow for 10c deposits on bottles cans etc, and red landfill, are highly visible and well marked. There’s no confusion about what to put in a particular bin. The environment of the beautiful Botanic Gardens is conducive to people wanting to leave it the way they found it. Of course there are exceptions to the rule, but it’s common to see people randomly picking up rubbish left by others so that at the end of the 4 days there is very little rubbish left on the ground.

There are few rules: don’t smoke, don’t climb the trees, sit on low chairs at seated events, use the bins provided. Although people are asked not to climb the trees, a number of visitors do sit in the tempting lower reaches of the Moreton Bay Figs, leaning back lounge-chair style. And one small boy managed to climb all the way to the top of a spindly branch of some kind of tall fir tree, without his parents noticing. Last sighted being helped down by a man who had to climb up to get him. I’ve never seen wilful destruction of trees, graffiti or vandalism. The sorts of behaviours we see, or view evidence of, in our communities.

I’ve attended the last 5 Womadelaides, and never had a day ruined by pouring rain. And even this year’s Sunday downpour wasn’t the ruination of a day, it simply made it less comfortable. My cheap poncho tore, our base camp was a series of puddles on the tarp, and sitting in a wet chair during Phillip Glass’s performance of Koyaanisqatsi certainly made me cold and stiff. An early departure was called for, meaning that I missed out on Parov Stelar, the performance of the weekend according to some. But despite the inclement weather, there were instances of this temporary community acting the way a community ought to: strangers helping mop up wet base camps, sheltering others with their umbrellas, grimaces turning to smiles passing between strangers huddled under barely functional plastic coats. A  man struggling into a plastic poncho in the wind and the rain while talking on his phone pressed to his ear with his shoulder, looked so awkward that I veered off my path to go and help him. We didn’t exchange words but a smile and thumbs up was enough for me to feel glad I’d helped. Yet I’m not sure I’d have done the same had I seen someone on the other side of the street back home. I’d probably have left him to struggle on alone. Provide people with all the makings of a community and they behave as if they are members of that community – one of many, common aim. There were police present, but I doubt they were run off their feet.

Of course there were still annoyances: those tall (mostly men) with high hats or high hair, who’d make their way to the front of the crowd, happy to stand in front of much shorter people and block their vision. Or those who having drunk a little too much forgot they were in a cramped space and proceeded to dance like an out of control windmill, oblivious to how many people they’d sent edging backwards. Or the groups of people who insisted on having a full-on yelling conversation so as to be heard over the top of the performer. But this wasn’t the norm.

There’s something to be said for the Arts, in directing our senses to the things that matter; things that are pure, that connect people, make us see what it is that connects us not what separates us. Encouraging the behaviours that promote empathy, tolerance, appreciation of difference. The global community could be this. Humankind needs to try a little harder.

A Room of One’s Own

I now have a studio at Montsalvat. A small white-washed walls and tiled floor space, 4 m x 2.5 approx. But it is a room of my own, and I go there to write as often as I want, as often as I can.

I have established a routine; one that is similar to what I had previously, but there are major differences. Before, I’d have to move the pile of notes and magazines from my chair to my bed, balance the coffee plunger and cup precariously close to the edge of the cramped desk, move the clothes from the back of the chair, sit, write, become distracted by an email bleeping in, a phone call, leaf blower or chainsaw, dog barking. Stand up, walk around, check emails, Facebook, Twitter, eat something, weed the garden, put on a load of washing, write a list of things that should be done today, tomorrow, some time in my life. Of course this didn’t happen all the time. Otherwise I’d never have finished anything. And I did. Quite often.

The routine now: enter room – hello little room!  – kettle on, lamp on, check board for short story comp’s due, turn on lap top, open notebook, sharpen pencil, make coffee, write. And I do. I can’t feed distractions by wandering around the room, and wandering about the grounds of Montsalvat serves more as an inspiration than a distraction. There is no wifi, no fridge I can open and plan some culinary concoction while pretending to think. Once I made the discovery that thinking time makes up a large part of writing time, I happily used this as an excuse to get up and wander. Walking is the best antidote to procrastination because it actually works. Something about air, motion, scenes sliding by – whatever was dormant makes itself known. And if you’ve come out without paper and pen or some recording device, you head home in a rush, repeating the word/phrase/idea, or devising a mnemonic that you’re sure will prod the idea along. I once stubbed both big toes rushing up the steps to get an idea down that I’d conveniently broken into 3 words, one associating with the next so that the whole sequence of ideas would flow once the first word was recorded. I did get those 3 words written down, but I still have two black nails and can attest to the exceedingly slow growth of toe-nails.

I’m currently working on a novella – at least I think that’s what it is. It began as a short story, my favoured form, but has grown into 14,000 plus words, probably too many for even the US short story market. And I’m nowhere near finished yet. This is what I’ve been working on since acquiring the studio at Montsalvat. Not a single short story has been started, which is a small dissatisfaction, as I do so love a short story. I love reading them and I love writing them. But every time I’ve been to the studio I’ve spent at least 4 hours there, and each time I’ve written, either long hand ( I always write by hand with a grey lead first draft) or typed an edited draft. At times I’ve sat totally uninspired. But I’ve driven here, the coffee is made, and I’m damned if I’m driving back home without writing anything. So I start: read over the previous para, and just continue, put the judge’s hat aside because it doesn’t matter if it’s tripe. And some of it is tripe at first, but by the time I’m ready to leave, I’ve written myself back into form.

There are some minor distractions, it is Montsalvat after all. There’s often a wedding – photos of the bride descending the stairs outside my door; a memorial – bagpipes are prevalent for some reason; a fashion shoot outside the window, loud conversations outside my door, random people peering in my window, a peacock wandering the grounds – in search of inspiration perhaps! But they are short lived distractions.

So yeah, I’m loving this little space with its peeling paint shutters and daddy long-legs in the corners, its chipped rough walls and pull-cord light. And it’s not only a room of one’s own, but it’s also a room with a view 🙂

On Loss, and the Passing of a Year

The year has taken many celebrities and artists from us; it almost seems as if they are leaving us at a greater rate than non celebs. But of course that is not the case. We feel their passing as if it is a personal loss. And it is: the loss of childhood, teenage-hood, the loss of love, or the loss of a particular time that can never be relived, missed opportunities that can never be grasped. We associate these losses with particular people, songs, houses, objects, places.

So am I mourning the loss of David Bowie, a person I never met, or am I mourning the memory of times, of places, shared chaotic households and shared lives, little responsibility and everything possible; a time when a friend camped out for front row Bowie tickets and was so excited on the night that he drank himself stupid, and our vision of the police carrying him away was the last thing we saw before the concert started. I don’t see that friend anymore, haven’t thought of him in years, but I thought of him when David Bowie died, thought his grief would be insurmountable. I was shattered. I walked around saying to myself, ‘David Bowie is dead,’ and I played anything I had of his, which, strangely, wasn’t much. I sent messages to people, ‘can you believe it!’ and we sat hunched over social media trying to work out the why, the how, as if it could made a difference. But of course, it didn’t. And we’d all managed to somehow turn his death into being about us; our loss, our grief, our personal memories and associations.

And then Leonard Cohen died. And the memories and associations whirred into action and cut through the stunned silence like the light through cracks. My mourning for L. Cohen was a reminder of earlier times, when things were bleaker and darker, and what I’d found in his melancholic brokenness was an uplifting darkness, a belief that the light does indeed get in.

This is not to say that the other artists and celebrities who’ve left us this year haven’t touched me in some way, but these two left me speechless with thought and memory for some time.

Celebrity deaths are about us, or at least the grief is. We are allowed to grieve our own memories, and if a celebrity had a hand in the creation of the memory, then grieve away. The new year will bring more losses. We can’t prepare for them because we don’t know who they will be. But they will come. And we will grieve for them as if we knew them personally.

The Short Story

I’ve been immersed lately in an online course from the University of Iowa – How Writers Write Fiction.  Lectures, readings, 5 assignments, and contributions to discussions, all means I’ve been extremely busy. I’ve found I can write very quickly if it is required – most of the 5 stories I submitted were written in under 2 days, one written and edited in one day, which is not at all like my work rate. The stories were all around 1- 2500 words, so shorter than I’m normally used to. But the added pressure of having to write school reports very soon, meant that I pushed myself to a self imposed deadline. This also meant that I now have a very sore arm, neck and shoulder from excess computer use, so that doesn’t bode well for report writing! But the course itself was so worthwhile in terms of just immersing myself in the form of the short story. I’ve read countless short stories by others involved in the course and given feedback and received comments in return. I’ve read a huge variety of stories from the sublimely beautiful to those that need further work, but each has contributed to the whole process of creating an environment where I can feel like I truly have been immersed in the short story.  And, I have 5 new stories to work with – probably worth the sore neck and shoulders.

To Swim the Purple Sea is featured as this week’s For Books’ Sake, Weekend Read. The story won the Local section of the Alan Marshall Award 2014, and was published in 2015 in Award Winning Australian Writing. The story can be read here until next Friday 21st Oct. when another story will be featured. I’ve loved the stories published in the Weekend Read and I’m really pleased to be involved.