Archive for November, 2012

Refreshing the Wells 16

This beautiful footage of a rainbow forming. It draws me in, takes my mind off the every day, and allows the subconcious to operate.


These pieces of footage of the murmuration of starlings. A flock of birds used to fly like this some nights when I waited for a bus in Canberra city. It’s a breathtaking thing to watch.


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Canberra Critics’ Circle Awards

Last night, at the Canberra Critics’ Circle Awards night, I received a fiction award for my collection Through Splintered Walls.

Absolutely thrilled by this! I am now a two-time winner, because Slights won two years ago. It’s an award to be very proud of, because it is voted by the critics themselves.
Before the awards were announced, I chatted with an artist called Trish Roan. We were both there not knowing too many people, and we had an amazing conversation about inspiration, the dark side of life, and how to make a sculpture out of my son’s old tonka trucks.

I was thrilled when she won an award as well, for visual arts.

A most refreshing evening!






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Newspaper clippings. I’ve been collecting them for a long time.


I keep a lot of them. It’s fun to track back and find the source of my stories.

“The Gaze Dogs of Nine Waterfall” came  from an article in the Fiji Times about vampire dogs. “It is probably just a strange breed of dog with a preference for blood,” Dr Travis Schaar reported. (Though, on investigation, it appears he didn’t actually say it about these dogs. I do love the internet!)

“His Lipstick Minx” came from a number of places, but one element was inspired by a chilling article in New Scientist by Sue Birchmore, about gory industrial accidents.

I’m fascinated today by the story of Kirk Buckner. I kept this clipping because it described Kirk, a 14 year old, killing his entire family, only stopped when an uncle knocked him down. I kept it because I’m so disturbed and yet drawn to stories like these. Children committing violence, and violence against families. It’s because evil confuses me. How does a 14 year commit such a terrible crime?

Answer, in this case, is that he didn’t.

It was the uncle.

Unless it wasn’t.

Thing is; if I hadn’t investigated further, Kirk would be a killer in my head, because the newspaper reported it that way. Nothing is truth, is it? Look at that comment from Dr Schaar, who has probably never even been to Fiji. And look at Kirk who, for a week, was considered an evil teenager.


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Listening to the MOTH podcasts. True stories, told live. Some are wonderful, some are boring, some are awful. Most have a kind of randomness about them, which is how people really do tell stories in person.

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Here’s Mihai

“It was a review I read. It mentioned “broken mirrors” and I started immediately to think at the cracks that appear on a perfect surface, a broken reflection, the pieces that make a human or a certain object whole, the perfect image that those pieces form when they are together and the accidental or deliberate impacts that can shatter the entire image and reveal the little pieces.”

Mihai’s comment is really interesting. I love the imagery, and I think he’s exactly right. The small pieces make the whole. Take those pieces separately and you have many stories. Together, they make something else and, perhaps, the importance of each piece becomes merged with the broader image.

Refreshment came today from my locals shops. There is a bank of charity bins there, often overflowing with dirty clothing, rubbish, broken toys and, more often than not, jigsaw puzzles.

The puzzles rarely remain in the box, but end up strewn all over the place, travelling all over the car park, sticking to people’s shows. Mihai’s comment makes me think of the stories that are like these strewn jigsaw puzzles. Each piece is important; each one can tell a story. But unless you pull them all together, you won’t have the full picture.

Mostly what I think when I see all these bits is that I wish I was an artist and could make something of them.

Edited to Add:

This news item is so insane, creepy, bizarre and disturbing I couldn’t even write a story about it.

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Today it’s the New Scientist files. I tend to tear out articles at random (no room to keep the whole magazines!), sometimes making notes to myself, other times simply sparked by the headline.

Here are a few.

The Pacific hagfish can absorb nutrients through its skin.

“Smell of death ‘in air from car’.” Taking air samples to prove a body has been transported.

“Brain signals harnessed to move robot arm.”

“Neanderthals may have drifted gently into oblivion.” This one fascinates me because I’m interested in survival; what makes us carry on? How does a community decide when it’s done, when it’s over?

How are you refreshing the wells today?

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My weekend was very social, with trivia, laughter, wine, cheese, Argentinian Salted Beef, more laughter, conversation, a fete or two and more. Lots of human interraction, which is a good way to refresh most things.

I’m not well today (not connected to the wine, let’s be clear) and so I will be tapping into dreams. Letting my subconcious have a go at all that data.

Here’s Thoraiya Dyer:

“I refresh by going to new places. Or wilderness, which always changes, so it’s always new.

I’ve been to Merewether Beach thousands of times, but I’ve only ever once seen a blue-ringed octopus, only once walked on the crunchy corpses of ankle-deep dead beetles and only once seen a lost fur seal. Sometimes there’s eroded cliffs, naked rocks, whale bones and broken surfboards, and sometimes there’s smooth, Sahara-like swathes of golden sand gently sloping down the the sea.

Last time I was there, I put my bare foot in a green ant’s nest. Today I have a short story I really like about genetically modified ants.

But even though I write a lot about animals, it’s not always about stealing the actual things I see. Characters should be like Merewether Beach. When people are content, they’re all smooth and golden, but insert a powerful storm to find out what sharp or broken things are underneath, that’s what fiction can be about :)”

Thoraiya linked to the recent Oatmeal comic about this very stuff!

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Woman Train

My story “Woman Train” appears online at Cosmos Magazine as of today, along with an interview about the story, and about my name, and about squatting, bird-obsessed men.

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Just to be clear, all this stuff I’m doing isn’t for the sake of writing/inspiration/refreshing anything at all. I’m reading/watching/listening because this is the stuff that fascinates me, that sucks me in and keeps me interested. Side benefit; stories form.

Today it’s “Plague’s Progress, A Social History of Man and Disease”. Written by Arno Karlen, my son and I are reading it for his assignment, and it is full of good stuff.

There’s the story of the crew of The Unicorn, in 1619 (and already I’m thinking, “Unicorns? Then?”). 61 of the 64 crewmembers died  “agonising deaths”. Recently, it’s been decided they died because they ate raw polar bear meat, which was considered a delicacy.

That’s a single paragraph in this book!

Here’s Leife Shallcross:

“I use music a lot. Not so much when I write, but as a way of generating ideas. The way the vocals and instruments shape the melody is always good for setting mood or creating character. A rhythm might evoke a gang of highwaymen on horseback, or a troupe of mechanical ballerinas.

“I also get a lot of inspiration when getting to know new music with lyrics, when half the time I have no idea what the lyrics are, but my brain is just making stuff up to go with the music. A mis-heard lyric is a great source of unlikely and evocative combinations of words!”
I asked Leife what her current mondegreen is!

She said, “Currently I’m playing with ‘rumour thief’ from a Florence & the Machine album. I have no idea what the actual lyric is!”

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Here’s Ian McHugh:

“Music! I listen to music a lot, and I find it has a really powerful effect on my mental state, like taking drugs through my ears. I use it as a pick-me-up, or to settle my mind, or help myself concentrate, or drive myself along when I’m running or cycling. Running to the top of Mount Ainslie, near my house, with fast loud music in the earbuds exacerbating my tinnitus puts me on top of the world.

“As a consequence, music is also a really great tool for getting myself in the right headspace to write. To borrow your metaphor, I guess I use music to keep topping up the well whiling I’m drawing from it. If I have a very clear idea of the mood I want to capture in a story or a scene, I’ll often put on music that fits the mood I’m reaching for, so I’m refilling myself with that mood at the same time as I’m pouring it out of me into the story. Over the years, I’ve built up a whole catalogue of ‘go to’ songs and pieces of music to suit particular story moments.

“For example, my favourite track when writing the big hero moment at the climax of a story is “Rez/Cowgirl” by Underworld. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FYs9tYv8uw&feature=related I *never* get tired of that track.

“Sometimes the right music isn’t the most immediately obvious choice, and I have to go hunting to find what I’m looking for. Writing the final battle at the end of my story “Bitter Dreams”, where the townsfolk brutally slaughter a whole herd of demonically possessed cannibals, the music that eventually nailed the moment for me was “Any Other Name” by Thomas Newman. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIjWaulrLjs Yes, that’s the music from American Beauty.

“Once the story or scene is happening for me, I’ll listen through a playlist of similar-feeling songs to the one I started on. But if I’m really having to work hard for a scene, I’ll just keep that same perfect song on repeat until I’m either sick of it or the scene is starting to come through how I want it.

“On reflection, I think my brain is more of a leaky bucket than an actual well, and so I have to constantly refill it with the thought/mood/feeling I want to hold in my head. And if I’m struggling to get started writing – if I’m finding it hard to concentrate, feeling flat or just can’t find the next line of the story to get moving again – then music will often give me a jump-start, or a quick fill-up.

“Today, I did the City 2 Sea, the Melbourne version of the City 2 Surf. It was a bit of a shambles, because the past two nights I’d gone out with the friends I’m staying with, rolled out of bed this morning on 4 hours sleep with a hangover and expected to be able to go hard for 14 km. Yeah, no. I has a lesson in how very much I’m not 25 anymore. Maybe better to say the City 2 Sea did me today. Anyway, this afternoon, after a few hours in an exhausted heap on the couch letting the cricket on TV melt my brain, I decided that dammit I was going to do some writing. Just a matter of picking the right music to fill up my leaky brainbucket, and off I went. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsDpznl8eIs Booyah! ”

Speaking of music, today I’m going to play The Planets, by Holst. I need to brainstorm something in particular, and I’m hoping this music will help.

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