Tag Archives: writing tips

More Caffeine Required!

Welcome to another Weekend Coffee Share.

If we were having coffee today, I’d be asking for a hammock for my head. The Blogging A-Z Challenge has been incredibly intense and my brain is simultaneously firing on overdrive and completely exhausted, even though that makes little sense. When you’ve been writing Letters to Dead Poets for a month and even receiving replies, nothing makes much sense.

I’ll be putting out an Alphabet Soup every Sunday, which will be listed my challenge posts to date and I encourage you to do the same. It can be difficult navigate your way through missed posts. Here’s the link: Alphabet Soup

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Pictured with Thomas & Meg Keneally at an author lunch, Pearl Beach.

Yesterday involved another brain blow out when I attended a literary lunch with Australian authors Thomas Keneally and daughter, Meg. While you might not recognise Keneally by name, he wrote Schindler’s Ark, which became Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster movie, Schindler’s List.

Not unsurprisingly, Keneally is an incredibly intelligent man with a deep social conscience and is also a flag-waving Republican. What did surprise me, however, was his incredible wit and humour and his passion for Rugby League. I felt so incredibly blown away meeting this  inspiring man, who has well and truly stuck to the road less travelled and turned it into the yellow brick road. Actually, on second thoughts, he would’ve made an excellent Wizard of Oz hiding behind the curtain fiddling with the controls…no doubt with a huge grin and his gutsy laugh.

However, as much as I was thrilled to meet and listen to Thomas Keneally, I was riveted listening to his daughter, Meg, who is co-authoring this series of novels with her Dad. As a writer beavering away to get my first book out the door, I really appreciated her insights into her own journey. Just because her father is a famously successful novelist, there were no guarantees that she’d follow magically in his footsteps. As with any kid with a successful parent, it’s very hit and miss. Moreover, as she said, writing is a very solitary process, so it’s not like she’s been looking over his shoulder all her life!

Meg Keneally is an experienced, successful journalist and a Mum. Some years ago, she apparently wrote a few novels which she said wouldn’t see the light of day. That didn’t surprise me as a lot of writers have a few of those stashed in the bottom drawer. She went on, however, to explain that she was “half-baked” when she wrote them. Her choice of words immediately captured my attention. These are words I’ve used to describe my writing process, although I leave my stuff “to stew”. However, I’d never thought that I needed to cook or bake as a writer and it was only once I was fully baked, that I could finally pull off “my book”. Yet, this made a lot of sense!

After having a number of serious efforts at my “Book Project”, I’ve finally found my voice writing these Letters to Dead Poets. Indeed, I can feel that sense of galloping hooves in my head. There’s incredible momentum. Indeed, it feels like I’m on the homeward strait, even though I’m only just through the gate. I’ve only made it through H.

Why does this writing game have to be so hard? Why couldn’t that book just fall out of the sky and into my lap?

I know! I know! If it were that simple, it wouldn’t be worth reading. Or, would it?!! Am I making it all too hard?

As you can see, I’m well and truly immersed in my writing and making great leaps ahead… just in time for the kids be on school holidays. Now, I’m having to switch hats and go into the entertainment business. Not that I can or want to drop the writing project altogether. That’s the beauty of the A-Z Challenge. It keeps you in the flow so you can actually produce a body of work.

When it comes to what’s going on beyond these four walls, I have absolutely no idea. I’ll be rising to the surface 1st May and until then, the world can wait. At least, I hope it can!

If you are doing the A-Z Challenge, how are you going? Do you have a theme? Please share your links!

Hope you’ve had a great week and an even better one awaits!

The Weekend Coffee Share is hosted by Part Time Monster.  You can join this week’s Coffee Share on her blog or by clicking on the “Linkup Linky“. It’s a fabulous blogging community!

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

H- Ted Hughes: Letters to Dead Poets #atozchallenge

‘It is occasionally possible, just for brief moments, to find the words that will unlock the doors of all those many mansions in the head and express something – perhaps not much, just something – of the crush of information that presses in on us from the way a crow flies over and the way a man walks and the look of a street and from what we did one day a dozen years ago. Words that will express something of the deep complexity that makes us precisely the way we are.’

-Ted Hughes, Poetry in the Making

Dear Mr Hughes,

Hopefully, you don’t mind being jolted from your slumber. Through some twist of fate, I am  writing letters to dead poets. By “dead”, I don’t mean to infer that you no longer exist. It was just an idea I had after reading Rilke’s Letters to A Young Poet. Kahlil Gibran wanted me to clarify that:

“I am alive like you, and I am standing beside you. Close your eyes and look around, you will see me in front of you.”

Kahlil Gibran

Writing these letters hasn’t been as easy as I thought. I’ve never fumbled around so much trying to write a simple letter before. While the concept was a flash of inspiration straight from the muse, getting them done has been much harder than expected. Indeed, this journey is taking me straight up the mountain via a goat’s trail and I’m left stonkered beside the path waiting for my brain to catch up. Ouch! I’m not even half-way.

Even a kid in single digits knows you write about what you know. That’s the ABC of writing. However, I barely know you at all. So, writing you a letter must be tantamount to heresy.

That being the case, why have I written to you? Why not write to someone else I’ve known for awhile?

Well, I’ve observed that we also write about what we’d like to find out, in pursuit of the question, taking our readers on a thrilling, exhilarating ride. Personally, that sounds much more riveting than being bored by a know-it-all.

So, this letter is just the beginning of a beautiful friendship! After all, just because we didn’t go to school together, we can still be friends. Spread our wings!

So, while there are people who know your work inside out, I’m the new kid on the block. Indeed, I only stumbled across your poetry recently after reading Max Porter’s poignant novel: Grief is the Thing With Feathers. Your friend Crow turns up in the story to comfort a grieving family after the wife/mother passed away.

Crow_(poem)

Crow

 

Crow’s Theology

Crow realized God loved him-
Otherwise, he would have dropped dead.
So that was proved.
Crow reclined, marvelling, on his heart-beat.

And he realized that God spoke Crow-
Just existing was His revelation.

But what Loved the stones and spoke stone?
They seemed to exist too.
And what spoke that strange silence
After his clamour of caws faded?

And what loved the shot-pellets
That dribbled from those strung-up mummifying crows?
What spoke the silence of lead?

Crow realized there were two Gods-

One of them much bigger than the other
Loving his enemies
And having all the weapons.

Then, I found out your incredible losses. I can not begin to imagine what you’ve been through!

(pause)

Ted Hughes

Anyway, I’m sure you know all about the awkwardness of the blank page. Indeed, I stumbled across The Thought Fox tonight:

The Thought Fox

I imagine this midnight moment’s forest:
Something else is alive
Besides the clock’s loneliness
And this blank page where my fingers move.

Through the window I see no star:
Something more near
Though deeper within darkness
Is entering the loneliness:

Cold, delicately as the dark snow,
A fox’s nose touches twig, leaf;
Two eyes serve a movement, that now
And again now, and now, and now

Sets neat prints into the snow
Between trees, and warily a lame
Shadow lags by stump and in hollow
Of a body that is bold to come

Across clearings, an eye,
A widening deepening greenness,
Brilliantly, concentratedly,
Coming about its own business

Till, with sudden sharp hot stink of fox
It enters the dark hole of the head.
The window is starless still; the clock ticks,
The page is printed.

-Ted Hughes

The thing is that if we all just stay in our comfort zones being experts of what we know, we’d never grow. Rather, we need to take those cautious, tentative steps  out of the nest to explore The  Road Not Taken before we stagnate.

So, this changes the perspective. Getting to know you, is a sign of growth and it’s quite alright to acknowledge that we’ve only just met. That this is the beginning. After all, we’re not all going to be old friends who went to school together. Indeed, we’re spread our wings.

Actually, through writing these letters to dead poets, I’ve actually come to appreciate how little I really knew about the poets I’d always supposedly known. Indeed, I’ve almost felt consumed by my own ignorance wondering how on earth I could possibly pull of each letter and yet it’s happened. I’m really coming to appreciate that being inspired by a poem, is but the tip of a huge iceberg. There’s so much more.

However, when it came to getting to know you, your personal life had actually preceded your poetry. At least, I’d heard about the tragic aftermath of your relationship with Sylvia Plath. I wasn’t going to mention Sylvia at all. No doubt,you don’t want to be tied to her for eternity, especially when you’d gone your separate ways in life. I get that. At the same time, I wonder how you survived it all. How you kept going? So many other poets never made it to the other side of the rainbow but you did.

Sylvia Plath isn’t the only poet who has taken her life. I am becoming more and more conscious that poets are an endangered species. Even just looking at my small selection of dead poets, the stats aren’t looking good. Severe depression is almost in our DNA…not that I’m depressed myself.

poet

This troubles me…the mental health issues of being a poet, a writer, a creative soul. Why is it that so many of us go over the edge? Does our flame burn so bright, that we somehow combust? Or, does our writing spring from some subterranean pond…a pool of tears? That only the sad, depressed and broken need apply?

As I said, that troubles me because I don’t want to press all the wrong buttons and start dancing on the wrong side of the edge myself. I have fought tooth and nail with everything I’ve got to survive and be here with my family. Live my life. Carpe Diem seize the day. As much as writing is breathing to me, I don’t want to blow myself up in the process.

Moreover, as writers, I have a very strong conviction that we also need to look after each other. After all, if one of our own falls down beside the road, don’t we need to be the Good Samaritan and help them up? Quite frankly, once you know the pitfalls of being a writer, you have to stop and look out for your colleagues. Band together. That should be written in our charter.

Indeed, I would argue that saving a life is far more important than giving birth to a book and getting it published,  as much as I’ve dreamed, striven and worked the very hard yards and pray I’ll get there soon. When one of your own is hurting, you need to respond and not just stick your head in a screen.

Mind you, that’s all well and good in theory but when you’re in the zone, the rest of the world can disappear. You’re just left hammering out those words, going with the flow like a person possessed. Indeed, perhaps you are. This can obviously make it a little hard to live up to your social conscience when you’re off somewhere with the muse and not in touch.

That’s well and truly me at the moment and I’m just trying to get from day to day through these letters of the alphabet without completely pissing off my husband and the kids. Even the dogs aren’t real impressed. I know we writers have to balance writing with reality but when inspiration hits and it’s all consuming, I’m even reluctant to pause in case it runs away. Inspiration can seemingly be so fickle that if you give it the cold shoulder for even an instant, it could well desert you. Find someone else!  Once again, your book project bites the dust.

Anyway, as I said before, this is just the beginning and I am really thankful for this opportunity to meet. Here’s to new friends!

Warm wishes,

Rowena

Heart Hands red heart

Photo: Rowena Newton & Mr J.

Haiku & Mash.

Enter at your own risk!

Somehow, our place has been transformed into some kind of poetry laboratory. While I’ve always been the undisputed Poet-In-Residence, all of a sudden, a young poet is emerging, finding and expressing his own voice.

You see, now that our son has started high school, he is having to write poetry for his English assignments. Being Mum of Little Faith, I wondered how on earth he was going to do it but like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat, the lad has delivered.

Here’s last week’s poem: Through My Window.

This week’s assignment involves writing a Haiku. It’s a form I haven’t really explored at length but that’s more due to unfamiliarity than disinterest. Basically, a Haiku comprises of three lines with 5 syllables and the first and third lines and 7 syllables in the second.

However, just because I haven’t explored Haiku myself, that doesn’t mean that I’m not armed and dangerous. I have some works by Beverley George, a local Australian writer of Japanese poetic forms, whose works have even been translated into Japanese. That speaks volumes to me!  By the way, I met Beverley at a local author-illustrator event and she was lovely and so enthusiastic.

This is how we ended up having Haiku & Mash for dinner. Chicken schnitzel, mash and a smattering of frozen peas with a side serve of Beverly George along with a ubiquitous notebook and pen. For me, a notebook is still paper..of course!

However, as our modern Australian family was playing around with words putting together our Haiku, little did we know, that we were tapping into the great Japanese tradition of renga, albeit, dare I say, in a somewhat mutated form.

As early as the 12th Century,  a group of poets in Japan — sometimes more than a dozen — would gather under the supervision of a renga master, or sōshō. Each poet contributed a stanza in turn, with the sōshō guiding composition by mandating the use of particular words or the exploration of certain topics. In one renga session, the poets might produce as many as 100 linked stanzas, which mutate over time to take the renga through different movements. The first verse of the renga, called a hokku, is identical to a modern haiku (1).

Being the great Haiku Master myself (choke), I set the pace with this:

Eternal Summer

Sunbaking on the beach

Snow is falling.

Well, the rest of the family scoffed at that. Apparently, the connection between an eternal Summer and snow on the beach was too obscure, even random. I tried explaining that when you’re caught up in Summer, it feels like it’s going to last forever but all too soon it’s Winter. With this, I was also thinking about how people are seemingly complaining about the heat or the cold when the seasons are so transient. It’s not forever.

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“The Sunbaker” – Max DUPAIN 1911-1992, Australia.

Moreover, I was also thinking about while it’s Summer here, it’s Winter in the Northern Hemisphere. So, while I’m melting in the heat, they’re freezing in the snow. I find these polar opposite during Summer/Winter quite intriguing…that tension between yin and yang!

Anyway, in response to my “random” Haiku, my husband penned a haiku of his own which had the rest of the family in hysterics. While it’s not strictly a Haiku, it certainly generated some laughs:

Roses are red,

Violets are blue,

Look! There’s a kookaburra!

Yet, as much as I protest, I know I can get a bit sidetracked. Dare I say…distracted! (Hello blog. Goodbye cleaning!)

So, to please my critics, my Haiku has now become:

Eternal Summer

sunbaking on the beach

rain is falling.

I have read and re-read this. I have a lousy sense of rhythm and couldn’t really be sure of the number of syllables. I had the rest of the family clapping things out while I tried to hide my confusion. I am more of a play by ear musician, than a counter. You could even say that I’m a bit of a Frank Sinatra type: I Did It My Way.  I know.  You don’t need to tell me such individuality isn’t always appreciated.

Inspired by a Haiku by Beverley George, I also came up with this one:

Crossing Hawkesbury River Bridge

Nose glued to the screen

The golden river sun shines.

Another train trip done.

By the way, if you’re interested in Haiku, perhaps you should try Ronovan’s Weekly Haiku Poetry Prompt Challenge. I also strongly recommend this interview with  Beverley George.

Stay turned for Mr J’s Haiku.

Have you explored Haiku at all? Any thoughts? I sense we’re only at the beginning of this journey!

xx Rowena

Source

http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/brainiac/2011/06/the_history_of_8.html

 

 

 

Poem: Night Music.

Outside my window,

there is no moon.

Through midnight’s murky darkness,

the branches twist and turn,

sharing their whisperings,

rousing me from the very depths

of sleep.

I hear voices.

There’s somebody out there.

 

The leaves are rustling,

whispering their precious secrets.

Something important

or perhaps it’s just

some silly shopping list.

 

Yet, in the wind,

their chattering sounds serious.

Forgetting all about the leaves,

I can not sleep.

I can not sleep a wink.

The shadows are growing

larger and larger.

Infused with evil,

they’re haunting and tormenting me.

Drawing closer and closer,

they’re now whispering in my ear:
“We’ve got you now!”

Their putrid, rotting breaths

sticking to my skin like toxic slime

I can not peel off.

 

On the very brink of death,

I run,

diving into Mummy and Daddy’s bed.

An impenetrable fort

immune from all beasts.

I am safe at last.

 

The beast deflates.

Phew!

It was all just branches

dancing in the wind,

brushing against my window pane…

night music.

Our son had to write a poem for English at school…”Through My Window”. He’s about to turn 12 and is in his first month of High School. As much I have been thinking about this exercise to try and help him, I also appreciated the topic myself. It was an excellent writing prompt.

There are so many different perspectives he could pursue. I know he actually loves going to sleep with the curtains open so he can watch the sunset but when he was younger and the wind was blowing  through the tree out the front, he would think someone was out there and get scared…a natural reaction for young kids. I still get scared myself in big storms when all sorts of things go bump and thump in the wind and the house feels like its about to fly of to the Land of Oz.

There is a fig tree growing outside his window. It’s an overgrown pot plant the kids call their climbing tree. They have shared occupancy with a succession of native pigeons who have nested there. A few years ago when the kids were about 6 and 4 they ran inside each carrying a baby bird saying they needed to look after them. I promptly told them that’s what the birds had parents for. Obviously birds can’t look after their own young…!

For two days, we were feeding those baby birds while trying to re-home them with their parents. While it was kind of fun and an experience we’ll never forget, I was so stressed trying to make sure those baby birds didn’t die and somehow made it back to Mum and Dad. We even stuck their flimsy nest in an ice cream container when we put it back in the tree. I remember waiting and waiting for any sign of their parents and listening out for their “coo”. It really was incredibly stressful.

Eventually, our story had a happy ending, although it seemed to take forever. Here’s the full story here:

Pigeons still nest in that tree and you can see the parents nesting through our son’s bedroom window.

xx Rowena

 

Poem: Somewhere In Between.

Neither tall,

nor small

but somewhere in between…

my feet now touch the ground

though my thoughts are

somewhere in the clouds.

 

I look out my bedroom window

at the road which lies ahead

wondering how to get from A to B.

Do I really have to walk?

Why can’t I take a jumbo jet?

 

I don’t have all the answers.

Indeed, I don’t even know

which questions I should ask.

Yet, everywhere I seem to look,

all I find is rules.

Rules on rules on rules!

 

Be here!

Go there!

This is how to do your hair!

Living by this ringing bell,

has to be a form of hell!

 

Neither tall,

Nor small

but somewhere in between…

why can’t I just enjoy the view

before I grow too big?

23rd February, 2016.

 

My son was given an assignment this week to write a poem “Looking Through My Window”. He is about to turn 12 and has just started High School. I wanted him to see the topic from a different angle and that looking through his window could refer to what he sees as well as how he views the world…his perspective.

As it was, his poem came from another perspective entirely and he wrote from an imaginary point of view about a mysterious rabbit which he spotted out his window, which no one else could see. This rabbit took on surreal qualities and started glowing, combusting and then in the morning there was no trace of the rabbit at all. It struck me as being a bit Steven King but well done. I gave him a bit of help with punctuation but it was his own piece.

I am trying to work out a good balance on the homework front. Every kid and his dog is being tutored these days and I figured my husband and I are qualified enough to handle this. Geoff is one of those lucky few who are good at maths and English. My maths ability was never strong but after putting so much effort into my creative side, it fell into some kind of swamp years ago.

So, who does our daughter come to for maths help tonight? Ha! Yes, yours truly. Well, they’ve even changed the way you do subtraction since I was at school and so Geoff ended up giving the pair of us a Maths lesson.

I would have thought that being a poet would’ve automatically disqualified me from all of that!!

By the way, it was sweltering here today and I caught the dog lying in front of a small fan we had running to redirect the air-con into the bedrooms….just like many of you in the North must have pets in front of the fire/heater this time of year. I was very tempted to grab that sun today and stick it in an envelope and post it to you all…no returns. Yes, I know I’d regret it in the morning and the temperature is supposed to be much more comfortable tomorrow. It’s really been a scorcher today!

Anyway, all too soon, I’ll be complaining about the cold!!

xx Rowena

Character Undefined.

You have to watch out for characters, both real and fictitious.

Just when you think you’ve painted their portrait, they grab the brush, slap on a moustache or some other undesirable addition and ruin all your hard work. Change the picture.

No matter how careful you are, there are no guarantees. They could still develop a life of their own and escape from your clutches.

Moreover, if you’re writing about your dog, don’t be surprised if that darn dog doesn’t run off with your precious paintbrush and play fetch with it…even if they’ve never chased a stick before.

It can happen to the best of us.

Indeed, this morning it happened to me and I even have photographic proof.

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In middle ocean, doggy is swimming…

My dog Bilbo, who has found fame but not fortune on my blog, is renowned for being afraid of the water. Yet, this morning he went for a swim at the beach and totally messed up his character sketch.

I was absolutely flabbergasted!!

Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.

Abraham Lincoln

While parents might discuss their human children, dog parents hold nothing back. Indeed, they discuss the foibles of their “offspring” in embarrassingly personal detail, even comparing notes about their intimate mental health issues. Indeed, they name and shame their dogs, even posting photos of their most extreme mental health moments, without any shame at all. No sense of betrayal. That just because they’re talking about a dog, that it doesn’t mean it’s heartless gossip…even bullying!

How awful is that? Being bullied by your own Mum or Dad?!!

Well, I must confess that even I’m a bit guilty. I could have mentioned Bilbo’s water phobia. I might even have posted photographs of the same sorry mutt staring helplessly as his ball drifts out to sea because he’s too chicken to fetch it. I might have even called him a “scaredy dog” behind close doors or implied it on previous posts.

Fetching Bilbos Ball

Finally some assistance. Miss puts Bilbo out of his misery!

So, even I have probably said more than I should about my dog’s “quirks” but there’s no mistaking how much I love my dog! Besides, I should also point out that he’s also jumped on my blog a few times and spilled my beans as well!

All that aside, just because Bilbo has issues, it doesn’t mean he can’t change. That just because he’s a dog with very strong inbred character traits, that he can’t grow. Extend himself. Or, indeed, be an old dog showing off his new tricks.

He can.

Indeed, he did.

This morning, Bilbo went swimming at Dog Beach. He actually not only got his paws wet but ventured in and actually SWAM!!!

HOWZAT! (This is Australian cricket slang for “How’s that? Meaning: “It’s out!”)

DSCN0051

Almost Surfing.

Of course, now that the dog’s actually gone swimming, I’m not quite back to the drawing board but I’m definitely back in my philosopher’s chair and asking: “Why is it so?”

Professor Julius Sumner Miller famously coined that phrase in his children’s science show. However, I doubt he ever looked at how or why animals and people suddenly change their stripes like that. Or, at least, act out of character now and then. He was more of a physics man famous for being able to get a boiled egg inside a glass milk bottle.

Bilbo’s swim was, in effect, the reverse process… taking a dog who was set in his ways and setting him free from the confines of his self-imposed glass bottle…just like letting a genie out!

Unfortunately, I’m no expert in dog behaviour and indeed, this mutt has been testing all my philosophical and psychological powers lately what with him fretting with the kids being away. Let’s just say he’s been in a bit of trouble.

Anyhow, like any good detective, we return to the crime scene and examine the evidence. Investigate what actually happened. Move over Sherlock Holmes! Here I come.

On the morning of Friday 29th January, 2016 at approximately 9.30 AM Bilbo, a nine-year old Border Collie was running along Dog Beach with his sister, Lady, a three year old Border Collie x Cavalier and Mum, a They met up with a Rhodesian Ridgeback and a Boxer who were energetically jumping and chasing each other through the surf. Bilbo immediately started barking at the other dogs, we believe, warning them to get out of the water…the canine equivalent of “Danger Will Robinson”. Having too much fun, the other dogs didn’t respond, ignoring him completely. They kept playing.

DSCN0056

One exuberantly happy dog!

Meanwhile, Lady being more cavalier, joins the dogs in the surf. After all, it’s so hot, that you could fry an egg in the sand. It’s the perfect day for a swim, except you could potentially boil in the water! That is, unless you’re wearing jeans and a few too many Christmas chocolates around the middle.

The next thing I know, Bilbo’s gone from barking on the beach to wading into the water and even swimming, while still barking occasionally. Bilbo is swimming! I suspect he’s actually herding, rounding up his mates more than actually swimming but he’s still in the surf.

“My goodness!” a friend exclaims, totally stunned. “That one NEVER goes in”.

I have a group of dog walkers I usually meet up with in the mornings. I don’t know whether we’ve oversimplified their characters or whether dogs are just more straight-forward than people. However, somehow the dogs have all been categorized…ball chaser, stick chaser, swimmer, non-swimmer, introvert, extrovert, problem dog…unconsciously, of course. Then, there’s Lady who I’m now pretty sure pretends to be daft to do her own thing. She dabbles in a bit of everything but seems to love stick her head down sniffing the sand and running along. and wandering I’m pretty sure she’s hunting. She used to live on a farm but as the saying goes “we’re not in Kansas anymore”! No more rabbits.

Anyway, I doubt Bilbo’s suddenly developed a love of swimming. Rather, I suspect that he’s just trying to be the Good Samaritan, attempting to herd his crazy mates out of the water and back onto dry land. Who knows? Perhaps, while he was out there, he found out that he wasn’t going to die and that he even liked it? Was having fun? The other dogs sure were and who hasn’t experienced the thrill of the moment when someone else’s fun is so infectious that it carries you right outside yourself and all your pre-conceived ideas and sets you free? All of a sudden you realise, that you’re standing somewhere you never thought you’d be and you don’t even know how you got there!

That’s what happened to me yesterday when I was driving my daughter to school. It was a 45-60 minute drive in the rain and I wasn’t even nervous. I felt calm, capable and in control. Indeed, I was standing, or in this case, sitting where I never thought I’d be and I was fine.

My inner fortitude was further tested this afternoon when yet another nasty storm hit right before picking up our son locally. The heavens were falling down and of course, there was lightening, thunder but fortunately no hail. I looked out there, at what almost looked like the end of the world. As much as I wanted to stay at home, I braced myself and figured the sooner I left, the better the car space. I threw on my raincoat, grabbed my golf umbrella and drove off, arriving in one piece, albeit through floodwaters about 20 cm deep in parts. It’s very flat where we live.

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.

Helen Keller

Of course, driving through all of this, I’ve become Captain Courageous. Not quite Captain Invincible but I’m working on it.

So, as we write our characters, both real and fictitious, while also getting to know ourselves, we should always leave that gap. Room for doubt. Space for growth. No one is set in concrete. They can still wriggle free. Take on a life of their own.

Just ask my dog!

AND…

You can ask ME!

xx Super Ro!

PS If you are interested in character development or are a bit of a people person, you could well find the Proust Character Questionnaire useful:Proust Character Questionnaire It’s been used by writers, actors etc for character development and I’ve been going through it for the Book Project…albeit very slowly.

 

 

NaNoWriMo: Planners or Pansters

“I think there are two types of writers, the architects and the gardeners.

Sample Floor Plan Wikipaedia

Sample Floor Plan Wikipaedia

The architects plan everything ahead of time, like an architect building a house. They know how many rooms are going to be in the house, what kind of roof they’re going to have, where the wires are going to run, what kind of plumbing there’s going to be. They have the whole thing designed and blueprinted out before they even nail the first board up.

What a beautiful garden. Sadly, it;s not my own!

What a beautiful garden. Sadly, it;s not my own!

The gardeners dig a hole, drop in a seed and water it. They kind of know what seed it is, they know if planted a fantasy seed or mystery seed or whatever. But as the plant comes up and they water it, they don’t know how many branches it’s going to have, they find out as it grows.

And I’m much more a gardener than an architect.”

― George R.R. Martin

Weekend Coffee Share: 25th October, 2015

If we were having coffee or indeed decaf something because it’s getting late, I’d be offering you one of my home-made Choc Chip & Macadamia Nut Cookies. They’re not long out of the oven and they’re absolutely scrumptious…much better than the Vegemite toast I offered you last week and was almost universally rejected.

My husband isn’t much of a Vegemite lover either and disapprovingly calls it “axle grease”. However, he’s become a bit of a convert this week as that infamous Aussie Vegemite sandwich makes a great decoy for the dog’s tablets.

In case you haven’t met our dogs, we have two dogs, Bilbo and Lady. Bilbo is a 9 year old Border Collie who is completely and utterly ball obsessed and I must say a little on the anxious side. The crazy mutt with go and stand outside in the rain until he’s completely and utterly soaked but traditionally wouldn’t get his paws wet at the beach let alone go for a swim. With increased exposure and watching more than a couple of his cherished balls float away, he’ll now go about paw deep but that’s it. He certainly wouldn’t make a good Lifesaver.

Lady being quite the "dog hog" taking up both the huge woolen blanket and dog bed, leaving Bilbo shivering on the door mat before I intervened. I'm sure many blokes who've lost the doona mid-winter would say: "typical woman". I do think Lady also tries to live up to her name and sometimes even Bilbo is treated like the "Tramp".

Lady being quite the “dog hog” taking up both the huge woolen blanket and dog bed, leaving Bilbo shivering on the door mat before I intervened. I’m sure many blokes who’ve lost the doona mid-winter would say: “typical woman”. I do think Lady also tries to live up to her name and sometimes even Bilbo is treated like the “Tramp”.

Lady is a 3 year old Border Collie x Cavalier. She’s basically black with patches of white on her chest and paws. We’ve only had her for a year and she comes from a farm up around Tenterfield. Her paperwork says that she’s a “working dog” but to be perfectly honest, that dog hasn’t done a day’s work in her life…unless it involves hunting rabbits. At the time we found Lady, Bilbo was slowing down and really wasn’t looking great. We’d lost our last Border Collie when he was 8 and so we decided to get a cross-over dog. However, it seemed that Bilbo perked up with Lady around and has lost about 15 kilos and while he’s not moving around like a pup, he really has had a new lease of life.

However, the downside of Lady’s arrival was that she introduced the most indestructible fleas on the planet to poor Bilbo, who’s never had a flea allergy before in his life and suddenly his skin went ultra berserk. Thursday night, he seemed to have a temperature and his eyes were a bit bloodshot and he was clearly unwell.

Friday, he was off to the vet and I was really becoming concerned. I was thinking back to when I’d taken our last Border Collie to the vet simply because he wasn’t eating and it turned out that he had a tumour. I asked how long he had left and I was thinking 6 months but then she said a few days and even suggested putting him to sleep. I just couldn’t grasp that he was that sick and took him home. Emotionally, I felt like I’d been shot in the heart but as I said, the news really hadn’t sunk in.

Fortunately, the news for Bilbo was nowhere near as grim and he’s been given cortisone and antibiotics…and the Vegemite sandwiches.

Bilbo appropriating another dog's ball.

Bilbo appropriating another dog’s ball.

I can’t help wondering what he thinks about all of this. Cortizone is a powerful drug and he’s on 40mg per day. I was told that he’d feel hungry and thirsty but I’m also wondering whether he’s getting any of the side-effects I’ve had on prednisone and whether he’s euphoric, angry and even though I didn’t think his ball obsession could get any worse, an addict on steriods is a very scary prospect indeed.

He’s a smart dog and I can just imagine him thinking: “Hey they don’t make those Vegemite sandwiches quite like they used to!

He’s starting to look a bit better but it’s going to take awhile for his crowning glory to get back into shape. He currently looks dreadful.

Aside from looking after the dog this week, I’ve been coughing badly again and it’s been driving me nuts. Seems that I don’t have an infection and it’s viral and so no point with the antibiotics but I’ve gone back on the nebuliser which helped…along with the fruit smoothies. I am feeling a bit better.

Prime Minister John Curtin

Prime Minister John Curtin

In between falling apart, we’ve been working on my son’s assignment on Australian Prime Minister John Curtin. John Curtin was in office 1941-1945 but died roughly six months before the end of the Pacific War after the stress undermined his health. I am a Curtin and all my life people have asked me whether I’m related to that John Curtin. Well, it now turns out that I’m not but we do have a few other John Curtin’s in our family so all wasn’t lost.

I became quite engrossed in his assignment so rather than completely taking over and undermining what he was doing, I wrote a post about how much a parent should be helping their child with their homework and am working on a post going into a brief overview of his time in office.

Here’s the first post: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/10/25/australia-during-wwii-what-i-learned-from-my-sons-homework/

If we were having coffee, I would ask you if you have been reading any good books lately.

This week I made a decent start of Stephen King’s writing memoir: On Writing (Scribner, 2000). I’ve never read any of his fiction but I am really enjoying his writing style in this book and it has some great tips including:

“If you’re just starting out as a writer, you could do worse than strip your television’s electric plug-wire, wrap a spike around it, and then stick it back into the wall. See what blows, and how far.”

Anyway, I have to head off now as I have an early start.

I hope you’ve had a great week and I ;look forward to catching up on your news tomorrow when I drop in for coffee at your place.

Here’s the linky: http://www.inlinkz.com/new/view.php?id=575563

xx Rowena

PS: Have you ever considered the irony that people who love animals want to be vets and yet aside from the posty, who do animals fear most? The Vet is like the canine equivalent of us going to the dentist!

Proust Questionnaire: Bullying is the trait I most deplore in others.

Today, I’m finally moving on to Question 4 of the Proust Questionnaire: What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Humph!

Working through this Proust Questionnaire is really challenging my brain.

Think! Think! Think! Think! Think!

“For I am a bear of very little brain, and long words bother me.”― A.A. Milne, The World of Winnie-the-Pooh

I can almost hear it ticking and there’s this jarring movement between the question which is ticking very fast and my brain, which is very slow..ly plod..ding a…lo..ng…

Back leaning over my keyboard late at night, I’m wondering whether this is all too much. Have I done it again and set myself yet another overly ambitious target and perhaps I should slow things down a bit? Perhaps, it’s also yet another procrastinating, delaying tactic distracting me from simply writing the book instead of doing more “research”?

I’m also wondering whether this Proust Questionnaire is relevant to the 21st century and if is it asking the questions I want to ask my character?

However, this is what happens when you embark on any new, intensive project. You have second thoughts, doubts and if you’re anything like me, you also like to put your own stamp on things and have trouble rigidly sticking to the rules.

Well, in this case, I set myself this challenge and the schedule so I could stop of change this at any time but part of this is also starting something and getting it finished. I also see merit in answering someone else’s questions to add depth to my character in ways I wouldn’t have considered. There is merit in not always beating to your own drum.

Meanwhile, it’s late and the dog’s have left the back door open and a cold wind is wrapping around my legs instead of their warm furry coats. I’m still awake because it’s school holidays and the kids are staying at my parents’ place for a few days and I ended up sleeping much of today. I’m pretty much back on deck after recent bronchitis but get fatigued easily. Besides, it was a cold, windy day and it felt so good sleeping with my electric blanket switched on and the world outside switched completely off!!

I’m not going to mention yesterday’s train trip with the kids to Sydney either but suffice to say that I was relieved to drop them off and meet up with Geoff and have a quiet dinner out.

This brings me to question 4: What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Humph. This is quite a hard one.

After throwing a few ideas around, I’ve found it…bullying.

Bullying doesn’t need any introductions or definitions  because it’s all over the web.

The reason I’ve nominated bullying as the trait I most deplore in others is that involves the misuse of power to intimidate others or to get what you want no matter who or what stands in your way. While this might be perceived as determination, it can also be a form of bullying and should be treated as such.

I was brutally bullied when I was at school. I wasn’t punched, kicked, scratched or even stabbed with a knife but for 6 years I was brutally bullied with words, ostracism and just plain cruelty, largely for being different.Being different, as most of us appreciate, is a serious crime at school and even though the world might open up like a flower once we leave, it’s like being stuck in a lift for six years and for some it becomes too much.

What none of us knew at the time was that I had a serious medical condition, which accounted for these weird and wonderful symptoms. Mum had a very difficult birth with me and that was probably how I ended up with hydrocephalus or fluid on the brain, which wasn’t diagnosed until my mid-20s.

The shadow of bullying can haunt people for years.

The shadow of bullying can haunt people for years.

Despite the troubles, I had at school, I attended my 10 year school reunion only weeks after brain surgery and half my hair had been shaved off but no one could tell because they’d left a layer a “curtain” of hair over the top. The reunion went really well and I even made new friends and connections. We’d all grown up a lot, which was really reassuring and there was none of that trademark bitchiness we’d had at school.

Most of the time, I don’t think about my experiences of being bullied at all these days. I found my peace and moved on…right on. However, my daughter recently talked to me about being bullied and said: “You don’t know what it’s like”.

Well, that was time to share a bit of my personal history only I can’t remember very much. No doubt I shut the door on all of that and don’t want to go back. The only reason I’d go back there at all would be to help my kids. Show them that you can go through being bullied and come out the other end being strong, a survivor. I ultimately found my niche at university where I had plenty of friends and was even ran for election for the student newspaper.

The other thing, too, about when I was being bullied was that while it was obviously going on, as I mentioned before, there wasn’t a lot that stood out that you could actually mention. No physical scars or proof and just words. We didn’t use the term bullying at our school. I guess a bully was stereotyped as some kind of thug of a boy and I was at an all-girls’ school. If you were picked on or bullied at our school, you were just a “loser”, “reject” or “Nigel No Friends”. There was no way of pointing the mirror back at the bully, so they could see their own ugly reflection. There was no “portrait of Dorien Gray” either. I don’t think there was any kind of of punishment or action taken by staff. You were just crushed…and your parents paid a fortune for the privilege.

These days I still see bullying and I’m not talking about kids. Parents slaughtering a teacher’s reputation without any evidence or a second thought. Parents judging children, judging other parents and just speaking their mind without any kind of filter whatsoever. I’ve heard these parents described as “gaters”. Not just because they hang out at the school gate but because they’re as brutal as a pack of alligators and show no mercy.

It seems to me that bullies grow up.

While I’m not always good at minding my tongue either, my grandmother, who was a very wise woman, used to tell me: “If you can’t say something nice about someone, say nothing at all”! That is very sound advice, which would prevent a lot of heartache and worse.

Would any of you like to share the trait you most deplore in others?

Just to get you thinking, a few of the other traits I considered were: anger, superficiality and arrogance. I obviously couldn’t mention running late, staying up too late or eating too much chocolate without pointing fingers back at me.

xx Rowena