And the List Goes On

I’m forever writing lists. I LOVE making lists. I make lists at work of things I need to do. I make lists on the white board on my fridge of things I need to buy and things I need to do. I have an old school bag from, like, Grade 2 when I went to St Mary’s. It’s one of those way-before-backpack do-das that looked like little suitcase made of cardboard. It was almost as big as I was. But anyway, on the inside is a list of my best friends at the time. I think Bernadette was really my best friend at the time because I was new and she had loads of freckles but we must have had a fight so she was off the list. Then there’s my favourite book from that era, The Silver Crown and I’ve written a list of my favourite TV shows inside the front and back cover (next to a bunch of Tattslotto numbers). Greatest American Hero (written as Greatest USA Hero) – the show where I first heard the word “scenario”, was on top.

So now that I’m reaching some big numbers of my own, not unlike the long chain of Tattslotto numbers mentioned above. Here’s a new list (in no particular order) that will grow and grow.

  1. Write at least one book
  2. Enter The Age short story competition every year
  3. Enter 2 other short story competitions each year
  4. Walk daily
  5. Learn to swing dance with Jeff
  6. Become financially independent
  7. Have a baby – what the hell, have 2
  8. Find my passion
  9. Learn to play the guitar
  10. Retire early
  11. Move out of the city
  12. Visit Our Lady of Fatima on Jazzy Jeff’s birthday (which happens to be the day of the Miracle)
  13. Meditate or learn to focus without thinking – whatever that’s called
  14. Organise my photos – seriously have to do this
  15. Learn not to judge people
  16. Buy a brand new car – anything, just brand new – and respect it
  17. Read all of the books on my reading list by 2010
  18. Finish writing this list

Papa Goes all Vanilla Ice on our Asses

So we walked in, Jazzy Jeff and I, to the humble Western Suburbs rents’ home to pick up the pooches. With the pooches scratching my unclad legs, I went straight for the pantry where mum keeps the bottomless jar of BBQ shapes – seriously, it’s always full, like a glass of cheap wine at a wedding. This is great as it makes me feel that I’ve never finished a packet, hence my youthful, dreamlike figure (dreamlike is true). So anyway, Jazzy Jeff’s busy drooling over mum’s stove checking out what we might be able to take with us for dinner. I turn around from the pantry and nearly choke on every one of those BBQ shapes I’ve shoved in my gob and the jar almost crashes to the floor cos there’s dad, all 70 years of him, wearing a baseball cap – BACK TO FRONT. This is a man who thinks that insomnia is best dealt with by drinking a cup of espresso, who falls from the ancient fig tree after breaking a branch with his hulking frame but decides to chop down the tree out of spite and who still thinks that all of the Hollywood actors of the 50s and 60s were Italian (the films were DUBBED, DAD!). So, given that the man doesn’t watch nearly enough commercial TV anymore thanks to 24-hours of RAI-International that beams in on the tele from the super-massive bird-shit-splattered satellite dish, where did the back to front baseball cap come from?Has Papà’s been sneaking into our place on the sly when he SAYS he’s mowing the lawn and in between snips he’s been watching MTV Cribs and he’s now down with the homies, yo?

A Night Out with the Family

How come when I sent a text to all of my pals requesting their presense at the drag races at Calder Park last Friday night I got the following responses:

  1. Who is this?
  2. Is this a joke?
  3. What’s wrong with you? (from the mother with young child)
  4. I’m there! (Bless you Momo)

But really, after driving through the Bob Jane half tyre and parking the Corolla in the what we thought was a car park hoping that none of the rev-heads would think that it would be a nice challenge to steal it (not such a challenge) and convert it into a nitrous-huffing machine (QUITE a challenge) we climbed over the Calder hill to the sounds of lawnmowers and jet engines – seriously. It was like the West had come alive. Sure there weren’t too many folks there at the nanna time of 7-ish but what a crowd it was. Momo, Jazzy Jeff and I wandered down the hill and found a place next to a middle-aged couple and their kids. Their kids! I wanted to take a photo and send it to my friends (particularly number 3, in the list above) and say, “see, it’s just a fun Friday night out with the family!” Sure, this family might have been wearing sleeves of tatts and Holden Special Vehicle windbreakers but they were a family dammit. When I have a family, there’ll be no Hi-5 concerts with pre-tweens in their crop tops and spangly hair ties, it’ll be a night out amongst the fumes, the souped-up Toranas that can manage 249kph in 9 seconds, soggy vinagered potato cakes and a coffee from the back of a van. That’s where they’ll learn what they need to know about the world – how to apply an even fake tan, how to light a fag and, most importantly, how to legally drag-race a Commodore while still on their P-plates.

A quick first post…

I like to hope for an amber light so that I can look up at the sparking wires at this inspiring intersection in Caulfield. Amber. Not Red. Definitely not Green. Despite the endless destinations possible, I’ve never seen a tram scuttle through the intersection. My friends have moved now so I come at the intersection from a new direction but it’s not the same.

Novel under the bed – An interview with The Train

Novel under the bed
Josephine Vraca
I wrote my first novel when I was twelve – 200 pages of heart-wrenching, pre-pubescent angst, if there is such angst to be had at that age. Then I read somewhere that Edgar Allen Poe would burn his writing if he got too entangled by it so, in the purest moment of my writing life, I took my scrawls out to the backyard and threw it on the barbecue, to dad’s delight. Do I have regrets about this? Sometimes, but geez it was shit writing.
The novel I’ve been writing for three years is called ‘Floating Upstream’. It is about a girl in a small village in Sicily who grows up around violence, incest, rape, food, oranges, almond picking, love and gypsies. It’s about making your way through life the best you can. It is about the lies that people tell, even when they’re not compelled to lie by circumstance. Mostly, it’s about the way in which we lie to ourselves and believe our own fabrications after a while because it’s so much easier to believe the delusions. However, there is a deaf-mute and he knows more about what’s happening in the town that anybody else because people don’t lie in front of him because they know there’s nothing he can do. He’s the town’s conscience who carries a picture of Saint Anthony of Padua. Along the way there’s love, fishing in the river, swimming for crosses on the first day of Spring, a rape, a pregnancy, some fortune-telling, lots of music and three deaths.
There is no happy ending, just a death and a realisation that life doesn’t get tied up into a neat package when all is said and done – sometimes when a life is traumatic and filled with hate, sadness and fear, you just get up the next day and catch the train for work because you can’t do much else. I want to explore the idea that people don’t always move on after trauma or that they do move without ever talking about their fears. You don’t always heal but you don’t always lose your mind because sometimes life continues as if it never happened. You just dust yourself off.
My vision of writing has changed since I first started this novel. At first I just wanted to write – no plans, just words. But more recently, I’ve been thinking more and more about the art itself. The sentence lengths, simplicity versus complexity – marrying the simplicity of Hemingway with the art of García Márquez. I like to re-read these two writers, particularly Hemingway’s short stories (‘Hills like white elephants’ is a favourite). But really, my novel is not that complex. It’s simply about people. I’m trying to develop characters that you’d love and plenty that you’d hate.

After three years I’m almost certain that I know what the story is about. I guess you could assume that, at nearly 60,000 words into it, I should have a clear picture but after years of workshopping, I’m not sure that it works that way. I don’t know that the first-time novelist is that disciplined. I was reading an interview with García Márquez that he gave to The Paris Review just before his Nobel Prize win. He talks about the art of writing. When you begin to write, you just write and you have no idea where you’re headed. When I first began in journalism, I felt much the same. I thought because I was writing about music, it was more of an emotional response. You just let the mood take you somewhere and you surprise yourself at every turn. That’s how this novel has eventuated. I write at 5.30 every morning, for one hour before I get ready for work. I might write 200 words, I might write 800 words. You might ask how I could manage any lucid thoughts at that time of day. But that’s just it. The thoughts aren’t necessarily lucid, they’re almost random, like I’m sleep walking or even channeling ideas that I can’t control. I marry that with weekend structural work where I sort out any questions I may have about plot. And I surprise myself with the clarity I can realise at times. And then sometimes, I just don’t write at all for weeks. Those are the times I dread. It’s not that I have writer’s block, I haven’t had that yet, it’s the fear that I feel. The fear that I’m writing for nothing. That it’s self-indulgent. That I’m wasting my time. But mostly, I just get on with it. Right now, I’m writing consistently and that’s an excellent place to be. But back to Márquez, he believes that eventually, the technical discipline has to come because the passion may die, the whimsy may flee, and where does that leave you? You have to make plans. But I’m leaving that for the next novel.