When will I be a real writer?

At what point do you become a real writer? Is it when when it’s available on Amazon and you get your first real-life printed copy? Or, if you’re in Australia, when it’s available for purchase from Readings?

Or maybe it’s the moment you write that last page. Or the day you burn it forever. Every last page.

I don’t know about you, but I wrote my first novel when I was 12. That’s way back in 1982. Thriller had just been released.

Time’s Man of the Year was given to the Computer.

One of my favourite songs was “Centerfold” by the J. Geils Band.

John Belushi died.

I used to go to bed wondering what Adam Ant was doing while I was asleep or having breakfast or (yawn) learning maths.

I read SE Hinton’s The Outsiders for the first time.

I was obsessed with the Outsiders when I heard that the film was due to be released in ’83, and wanted nothing more than to be a bad girl, the only bad girl of the group of Greasers – not like Cherry, who was a Soc with a bad streak, but one of the really bad kids. But I lived in an uber-strict world. So, rather than live it, I did what so many writers do, I wrote about the life I thought I wanted. Then, because I was a total wanker who had not siblings and fewer friends, and read Edgar Allen Poe, I torched every hand-typed page. Because that’s what you did to art when it wasn’t perfect.

Delete!

Book launch… for reals

A Book Launch? Yes, A Book Launch!

Join fellow author, Belinda Missen and I as we launch our debut novels on Thursday, September 24, 2015

@ Littlefoot, 223 Barkly Street, Footscray. 6-8pm

There’ll be drinks and nibbles, as well as readings from our works (I promise this is going to be awesome).

If you think you can make it on the night, please head over to Facebook to RSVP or just come on the night!

Pre-order Floating Upstream

Lucky 13 and A Free Ebook!

You know one of the best things about living and getting older? 

Meeting and talking to some amazing people. As a journalist, I’ve spoken to a bunch of fascinating people, like MC Proof (from Eminem’s D12), Molly Ringwald, and authors Kathy Charles, and David Nobbs. In one of my previous blog incarnations (www.writersquarter.com) I had the absolute pleasure to interview writers I admire, writers who are friends, writers who were recommended to me.

Over the eons, I’ve met people who’ve had the craziest stories to tell and I think: Really, are you telling me the truth? Was your life really that awesome? You bullshit meter is on high alert as you get older.

Still, someone had to live the extraordinary life. And someone had to interview Molly Ringwald and Proof. Someone had to write the stories and go to the parties and meet all the interesting people. I don’t pretend to be any of these things, but I’m happy to have experienced them.

So, in the meantime, I put together a little ebook based on some of my interviews with writers.

It’s free. Simply sign up to my eensy-weensy mailing list to get your copy of The Lucky 13.

Subscribe to my mailing list and receive a Free Ebook!

Good writing vs Compelling Story

Yes, I honestly think it’s hard to get both right because the need to follow a “story arc” can truly bog us down. 

I have a confession to make: I have read very little over the last few years. Just putting that into writing makes me judge myself. Does that make me one of those writers who doesn’t read? I used to read piles of books a year but then something happened and I stopped. I’ve got a stack of books on my bedside table that have been dog-eared at various stages – 10 pages in, 5 pages, some 30-odd, but finishing has been a real drama. Here’s what’s in the pile: 
Every time I make time to pick one up, I’m left feeling terribly ho-hum. The story moves along, but there is no depth to the writing, no real beauty.
Recently I was sent a book by a friend who is a big reader, and will only read books that are recommended to her, so I was happy to take her recommendation. She isn’t the biggest fan of modern fiction, so I was interested to know why this book, this writer. 
“My mom introduced me to William Maxwell. I’m not extra fond of modern writers and modern fiction, but he was one who warmed me up to the genre.  I remember you and I talked about the preponderance of plot in so much modern fiction.  Well, his stories are much more character-oriented.  I never had experienced what I thought was ‘tone’ before I read his works.  Well, I’m sure I did, but his works are startlingly pure in this regard, I think.  I’ve read about 6 of his works and would read them again”
I read books like I watch TV or movies – in the moment. In while it’s in then, soon after, it’s gone and I’m left only with a feeling. I don’t remember the inciting incident or the plot. I do remember the language, the characters and their interactions. I’ve read One Hundred Years of Solitude three times, and know it’s my favourite book but can’t remember what it’s about.
Then over the last few years, I’ve been reading books for story, plot, arcs and action, and I think it’s killed my love of reading and, to some degree, writing.
What happens to a writer who doesn’t write books that are plot heavy? We self publish, that’s what!

An admission about addiction

(Warning: What you’re reading is a first draft. I do not like to edit my blog posts – something about them being honest and real. Whatever.)

ACT 1: When I was 17, I got drunk for the first time along Melbourne’s Yarra River. It’s where all students went at the end of the year to forget their high-school woes and to cut loose.

Someone threw up on a cop car (LEGEND!) and I pashed a lot of boys.

The thing is, a lot of us Catholic school girls, especially us wogs, grew up in tortuous communities where EVERY SINGLE step was measured by our parents, neighbours, people we met at a wedding one time, and people who knew our mother and father but we had not seen since we were ten. And either despite this, or in spite of this, we Rebelled with a capital R. I knew lots of Aussie girls who rebelled against being a teenager, but us wog kids, well we rebelled against so much more.

What is incredibly sad is that, at 45, I’m still rebelling.

Against what, you say?

How could someone in her middle age give a shit about what her folks or family think, or even someone they met at a wedding one time?

Well let me tell you: Guilt and Fear do not stop just because you get older. My parents still don’t know about my tattoos (and there are a lot of them), they don’t know that my husband of 20 years and I once separated for 6 months, they know (but don’t want to know) that I have clinical depression and take meds every day (“can’t you just stop taking them?” my mother asks).

I am jealous of those who don’t believe that telling the truth is harder than lying.

How can telling the truth be better than telling a lie to make things easier?

ACT 2: Being high is better than, well, not being high.

You know how some people hold onto their youth by listening to the same music or wearing the same clothes or even holding onto the same hairstyles as that time when they were most happy in their lives (this is the stuff of the best Oprah episodes)? Well, for some reason, I’ve decided to hold onto the most negative times of my life.

When I drank a lot.

Being high makes me think I’m a better writer, a victim, funny, a great friend and wife, more interesting, just more…

And because of this…

Sometimes it feels like I have no past (or just no weekend).

ACT 3: We didn’t have digital cameras in the 80s and I had no money while I was at uni, so that means I have no photographic proof of my memories, my most important memories that explain who I am, whether good or bad.

I don’t have proof of:

– My first acid trip where I saw a cicada that was the MOST GIANT FLY I’d ever seen.
– The time Maree and I made a 4-Season diorama in a shoe box (based on the children’s book, The trip).
– The time, in 1987, when a bunch of us chucked a bunch of dishwashing liquid in the Deaking Uni moat.
– The hitch-hiking posts at Deakin
– The house on Packington Street in Geelong with walls covered in graffiti.
– My “tomato” plants in Geelong.
– Anorexia
– Bulimia
– Passing out in public phone booths from not eating.
– Sit ins against HECS in 1986-88
(pause)
– My purple plastic and flannel-lined raincoat that I picked up in that place on 13th Street near Uni in Eugene.
– The glittery blue bike I bought for a gram of weed in Eugene.
– The first time I met Jeff (although I have a t-shirt from the place where we met)…/

I also don’t see anyone from that time (late 80s). So is the person I remember actually real? Or is she made up? I have no photographic evidence, and a very romantic memory.

My memories of that time are hilarious, though, and it feels like I’m holding on REALLY TIGHT  to a time that wasn’t real, a time that was so fleeting, a time that has no proof. No photos. No friends that still exist (despite Facebook).

I remember a song called “Medication Time” that my friend Maree and I wrote with our voices and a couple of wooden spoons and pots.

I remember breaking into buildings.

I try to hold on.

I look at the white pages for familiar names. I look at Google and see the people who may be related to the things I recall from time to time. I want to contact them to say: “Hey, you really do exist. Did I?”

Did we ever? Did that second-hand (nee vintage) clothing shop really exist? What about Alex and the bikies? What about Michael Head, my first love who laid me down in a bed of roses (actually a field of dry grass)?

I hold onto those memories as though they are the greatest in the whole world, better than cream and sausage rolls.

These memories only have first names.

Only first names, because we were not meant to live this long, let along worry about last names.

I knew a fruitarian who walked around naked;
Mars, a guitarist with a heavy hand who became a chemist;
His fat girlfriend, Robyn;
A dealer called Alex and all her bikie friends
A black lesbian called Maree, who was neither black nor a lesbian (but we spent every second together and we wore black)

Where the hell are these people? How could they have changed my life eternally but also have no presence. Why the fuck aren’t they on Facebook?

Vote on my next book cover!

Soooooo…. I’ve got a few designs for my next book cover and I’d love your feedback. None of these are final – I like some images but hate the typography and vice versa. The book is a coming of age novel set in a small Australian country town in the 1970s – no magic, no sci-fi, just literary fiction. Let me know what you think.

http://99designs.com.au/book-cover-design/vote-2m6v53

Husband vs my manuscript

Husband is currently beta-reading a book I wrote during #nanowrimo 2013 titled “The Exorcism of Elizabeth Parker”.

I can see a series. As a kid and teen and young adult I read every Agatha Christie I could get my (cheap) hands on (I was a poor student so anything second-hand was king and queen).

My new leading ladee, Beth Parker is a junkie, a criminal, sex-addict and a writer who wants to learn the truth – about everyone else. But she doesn’t like it when the truth lands on her very personal doorstep.

Here are some pictures that represent the vibe of this story. It’s fun to see your story in pictures. It’s a rare thing for a writer.

Beth?
Beth?
Father Joe?
Others
Tao
Jason
So dramatic!
Nuns are people, too.
Dark wood = DRAMA!

How many books will you read in your lifetime?

This article in The Guardian has got me seriously freaked out. Apparently the average person will read 3000 books in their lifetime. Only 3000?

I spent half of 1988 and most of 1989 reading. That’s almost a book every day or two days. That’s when I wasn’t knitting and watching the cricket.

(It’s called a nervous breakdown, people!)

I think my dad has never read a book other than the Communist Manifesto (long story), and mum may have read some romance novels.

I wonder if I would have been such an avid reader if I’d had the internet when I was growing up?

Given my reading habits of the last 5 years, I think I probably wouldn’t have. So that’s something else to be grateful for.

This year, I’ve had to WORK REALLY HARD to read, but here’s what I’m up to so far:

Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway by Cherie Currie
Struggling with this. I have a real problem with autobiographies – memoirs really should be written by 3rd parties to keep them as honest and impartial as possible.

Lou Reed: Transformer by Victor Bokris
Absolutely magnificent. Life changing. I’m going to get a Velvet Underground tattoo soon. Sad I didn’t get into Lou Reed while he was alive.

The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie
I just found a stash of Agatha Christie books I thought I’d got rid of! This is excellent because of the story I’m about to edit. I want to capture the Christie vibe so I started with this one. I’m only a few pages in and thought I would hate the writing style but it’s so elegant.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
On my bedside table. I’m a sucker for a critically-acclaimed best seller.

Write Publish Repeat by Johnny B. Truant and Sean Platt

This is a non-fiction book I read on the go – when I;m waiting for the doctor, having a burger, and last thing before bed. I love their podcast and the book is an extension of that, and some realistic advice on how to actually be a writer.

The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer
I’m enjoying this because I love Amanda Palmer’s music and ethos. However, I learned recently that Amanda is knocked up and it’s changed the way I feel about her as a creative person. Sorry, Still worth reading, but I just feel like the book is a lie.

Requiem for a Dream by Hubert Selby Jr
Holy fuckballs! I’ve watched the film twice and just attempted the book. Have you? Holy Fuckballs! Read it. Watch it. This is Art. Holy Fuckballs.

Captive of the Labyrinth: Sarah L. Winchester, Heiress to the Rifle Fortune
I promise you: this is not as staid as it sounds. Don’t trust me? Well listen to this podcast on How Stuff Works about the Winchester House then tell me it’s still boring! Game changer!

Sadly, given that we are 79 days into the new year, I have actually finished ready only 1 book.

Do I need another nervous breakdown? Come on!

We need more strong women in the arts, and other bullshit

So much is said about women in the arts. You know, how we don’t get taken seriously, how female characters seem secondary.


This year’s Academy Awards are testament to the lack of female roles in popular film, with every story centering around men. So the challenge is for chicks to get busy and tell more stories about us, just to even things out…

All of my lead characters across short stories, novels and poetry are women. Not “strong” women, nor even “weak” women, because those are just wanky constructs. My women have jobs, they lose them, they drink too much and take drugs, sometimes they fuck strangers, or their friends, at other times they drive at a legal speed limit and eat a healthy diet but sometimes they just want hot chips and chocolate at four in the morning.

What do you think? should there be more “strong” women represented in the media or just women of all kinds? And who determines what “strong” means? Is Beyonce strong because she’s “proud” to show her body and talk about her ass? (P.S. NO)

So that reminds me…

A few years ago, a major radio station in Australia held their countdown for the Hottest 100 of all time. Talk about controversial. Apparently there are no hot women in alternative music, and there have never been. Here are some tidbits about the countdown from Wikipedia.

    * Only two songs in the entire Hottest 100 featured a female lead vocalist: Shara Nelson and Elizabeth Fraser, both of whom were guest vocalists on songs by Massive Attack(“Unfinished Sympathy” and “Teardrop” respectively). As such, there were no female artists or bands with permanent female vocalists who reached the countdown.

I know this is old news now, but it still sets me off when I think about it. So go and listen to some awesome women, you guys.

Here’s someone I’m listening to right now! I heart Adalita, and she’s from my hometown, Melbourne so I get to check her out live all the time.

Not forgetting Sia.

And finally, Nenah Cherry!

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