Averting One’s Face.

I’m spending too much time on Facebook and not enough time writing or with my partner. It’s not that I have Facebook open all day, respond to every notification or read all the articles that land on my page. In fact, it’s more about the quality of my time on line, rather than the quantity.

I joined Facebook in 2007 when a friend posted photographs of her overseas trip on what was to me the new and somewhat intimidating social platform. When I met my partner three years later and subsequently announced our relationship on Facebook, I added many of his friends and family to my growing list of ‘friends’. In the ten years since I registered, Facebook has ‘helped’ me reconnect with many family members who, for a range of reasons, were once lost to me. I admit I relished the careful refortifying, albeit mostly on line, of these precious family ties and I’ve loved seeing, in ‘real time’, several cousins and aunts, something that might not have happened without Facebook. I also enjoy the opportunity to connect with other writers and writing sites.

social_mediaOver the last couple of weeks, however, some of my friends have decided to take time off from Facebook or leave altogether. One of them explicitly cited the current political situation in the USA, and its alarming resemblance to Germany in the 1930s, as a reason for his decision.

I tend to agree with his position. We can compare, at the very least, Hitler’s appeal to sections of German society through speeches full of clichés, catch phrases and promises to reclaim Germany’s lost glory, to the emotionally laden rhetoric of Donald Trump. His promise to restore ‘order’, the way he targets and scapegoats people from different ethnic, racial and religious backgrounds is terrifyingly familiar, and implies the same inevitable conclusion; to appease one group, another group must be eliminated. As described on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website,

Nazis demanded that Germans accept the premises of the Nazi worldview and live their lives accordingly. They tolerated no criticism, dissent, or nonconformity … Guided by racist and totalitarian principles, the Nazis eliminated individual freedoms and pronounced the creation of the national community, in whose name they seized every opportunity to turn Germany into a unified racial collective … Hitler’s political opponents were the first victims of systematic Nazi persecution.

Recent Facebook posts describe the potential for public servants to feel morally compromised when they implement the new policies. If they refuse, they risk losing their jobs. This and the cavalier creation of poorly conceived and potentially dangerous policies and executive orders, are two instances that, I believe, have caused several of my friends personal despair. I can empathise. The negative and destructive actions of the government of the United States, and of my own government, is indefensible; I want no part of it. I too, am considering closing my Facebook account. But is this a rational decision?

Leaving Facebook may give me more time to write blog posts, work on my novel and my collection of flash fiction. I’ll have time to read more novels and reputable, balanced news feeds that back up their content with sound research and judicious investigation. One of the problems with Facebook’s continuous news feed is deciding if the content contains carefully researched facts, mere opinion or blatant lies. Rather than an open access to the world of ideas, much of what we read on Facebook exists within a bubble we, with Facebook’s help, create. Our newsfeed is a construction that confirms and reinforces the values and beliefs we already have. Quitting Facebook might give me more time to explore issues with my friends and family, rather than working out what they mean in their posts, or what they believe by clicking on sites they share. Leaving Facebook could also  mean that, rather than lamenting the gathering dark, I will have time to volunteer for the causes I support and light a few candles to illuminate and nullify the portents of doom. It seems to me that a time is looming when we will be asked to make actual (real time) changes in the world instead being satisfied with clicking on a sad or angry ’emoji’. Is it possible that, as an answer to every tragedy, every act of treachery, Facebook’s abbreviated method of response actually stops us from getting off our chairs and making real changes?

On the other hand, if I leave Facebook I may lose the ineffable connections with those I love best; family who live interstate. Yes, we can phone each other, we can get on a plane and visit, but sometimes it is nice to log on and see that my son is relaxing with friends, my daughter has managed to find a permanent home for an abandoned puppy, my daughter-in-law has organised another fund raising event. I also wonder how my leaving Facebook will disrupt the very things that could threaten my family’s well-being. Will deleting my Facebook account mean I am burying my head in the sand, refusing to see the world’s situation for what it, inexplicably and dangerously, is? By being ‘less informed’ about the plight of innocents might I be culpable for their suffering?

I cannot possibly answer these questions until and unless I decide what to do. But in a way, leaving Facebook is not the real question here. The real issue is how can I positively influence the state of the world? Is the turmoil and strife many of us fear inevitable? What can we do to prevent it?

To resist something is to hinder or prevent its progress, to oppose, to refuse to yield or comply. Those of us nervous, nay frightened, of recent events have a moral choice. We can comply or we can resist. Either option has its consequences. At the moment, we are exposed to rhetoric that focuses on one thing: America and its interests. In a recent post I pointed out that we are a family of nations. I know from bitter experience that when the needs of one member of a family are more important than the needs of other members, the family will be destroyed.

What I don’t know is if deleting my Facebook adequately signals my refusal to accept the current status quo. If you leave a room while an argument is taking place, are you showing tacit acceptance of the situation, or exercising your right to directly resist a situation you can no longer abide?

On Journals, Blogging, Letters and Constructing the (Writing) Self

The other day I was trying to catch up on reading the blogs I follow. One of the first things you learn as a blogger is the need to connect with other bloggers and read their posts. It’s not as easy as it sounds especially if, like me, you discover a blog, read one or two posts then follow it because it’s so interesting and well written and the blogger sounds like an astounding person you’d love to meet one day.

One of my former colleagues believes blogging is the offshoot of the personal diary or journal. I’m not so sure.  dsc_0319
I started keeping a journal thirty years before my colleague was born and I’d never write a post that even remotely resembles my journal entries. There are some things that just shouldn’t be made public. Granted, a lot of blogs are tell-all rants about the seedy and not so seedy side of life. Plenty of bloggers share moments of misery and loss, but I question whether this means blogging and writing a journal is the same thing. I will admit bloggers, like the folk who write a journal, are in the business of ‘constructing the self’, which is academic-speak for creating a persona, a fabricated self a blogger feels comfortable about appearing on a screen thousands of kilometres from home. I believe, however, that the self I have constructed for my blog is more carefully drawn than the self that inhabits the abandoned pages of my journals.

The other reason I don’t think writing a blog post is the same as writing a journal entry is because I feel blog posts are similar to letters. I have 80 or more followers (thank you, one and all) and I probably follow as many blogs. Not all my readers read all of my posts and I certainly don’t read every blog I follow – while I was catching up the other day I was interrupted – but, as all writers are admonished, I believe most of us learn to write, as much as possible, for our readers. This means, in the case of a blog post, writing so our readers feel it was written specifically for them.  Blogging, in much the same way as writing a novel, and unlike journal writing, is about supply and demand, specifically meeting the demands of readers. Yes, there are plenty of instances where journal writers share their private musings (or they are read, often clandestinely, by lovers, intrusive parents or inquisitive siblings) but bloggers want to be read, they want to form connections, they want to be shared.

Bloggers develop blogging friendships. I certainly have, and I’ve renewed old relationships (Hi, Kathy), so I often feel as if I’m writing a letter to my friends.   dsc_0323Not a newsy, chatty letter about the family’s latest escapades, but a letter that shares my ideas, the issues that concern me, my interest in therapeutic writing … which raises another point …

… is blogging therapeutic? I think it can be; shaping an event or feeling and sharing it with others can, if handled well,  help with healing. I doubt many bloggers feel they are alone in the world; for most of us there will be someone out there who’s interested in what we have to say, who reads what we write and who cares. Keeping a journal, while it helped in many ways, didn’t stop me from feeling alone, which is what writing for no one but oneself can do. My journal became a self-fulfilling rehash of personal (often self-induced) misery, which is why, despite intending to, I barely referred to my journals when I wrote my memoir.

The woman who wrote those journals is a mere echo of the woman I am now and I am an echo of the woman I will be. janetp03Blogging, as confessional and personal as it might be,  is a larger act of rebellion than writing a private journal ever was and believe me, I thought journal writing was truly rebellious. I was even advised by one counsellor to stop because she believed it would harm my relationship.

It’s hard to grasp exactly how massive the ‘blogosphere’ is, let alone imagine how many mega-millions of words are written and shared via blog posts. I am nevertheless content in my minuscule corner of it. I have readers, bloggers and otherwise, that I feel obligated to, not in an onerous, ‘dear me is it time to write another post?’ way, but  in a ‘I wonder what so and so is up to, and if they’d be interested in …’ way. More importantly, and this is a revelation born of knowing I do have readers, I look forward to sharing the (constructed) self who writes my blog; a self now past middle-age, an occasionally confused writer, by turns cynical and sentimental who is grateful to be a part of a sphere where readers and writers are not afraid to be whatever self they choose.

What about you? Are you writing a personal journal that you make public, a letter to far flung or nearby friends or something else entirely?

Gathering at the Well: An Anniversary Post

I posted my first blog twelve months ago today and I’ve been pondering what to write for this occasion.  9QEVP5YHO3I considered describing the steep learning curve I experienced over the last twelve months and the mistakes I have made. I thought I might summarise the year’s posts, explain what I hoped to do and assess whether or not I achieved my goals. I considered celebrating what I see as my ‘coming of age’ (finally) as a writer and sharing what I’ve learned about myself as a result.

None of these ideas appealed.

I’ve decided, therefore, to resort to a tried a true blogging technique: a list. This list is, however, a bit different. I want to express my gratitude for the interest in and support of Elixir. It is my attempt to give back what twelve months of blogging has given me.

  • Thanks WordPress. You’ve been sensational. From creating my first blog, to Discover and BlogU, the support you offer and the hassle free connection with other bloggers has been exceptional. I am deeply grateful for your existence.
  • Thanks to my partner who patiently reads and edits my posts, who shares my enthusiasm and sympathises when the writing doesn’t go well and who has, for the last seven months, been my patron as well as my lover and friend. You are … astonishing.
  • To the friend who inspired the first post, when the blog’s main focus was therapeutic writing. It’s been ten years since your diagnosis and recover, but we missed the celebration this month because I’ve been busy writing. You have nevertheless been much in my thoughts. Thanks for your inspiration, for understanding writing takes up a lot of my time now and for being a steadfast friend. I owe you a champagne.
  • To the woman I met one June day in 1970 who is now a lifelong friend and confidante. On the day I published my first post you wrote, ‘I am so very proud’. Those words meant the world to me. You’re in the US right now, visiting family but I think of you every day and hope I can continue to make you proud.
  • To my many other friends who’ve read my posts, liked the posts via Facebook or commented on the posts in person, thank you. I am privileged to call you my friends. I’ve not seen as many of you in the last few months as I would have liked. I’ve become so focused on my writing since retiring but please know each and every one of you inspire me with your wisdom, intelligence, warmth and generosity. I may emerge from this self-devised writing intensive one day. When I do I hope we can catch up.
  • Special thanks to my first Guest Blogger, Barbara Brown. Thank you for writing something that inspired this and one other post. Not only are you a wonderful writer, your untiring work for refugees is an inspiration. I’m also grateful that you started a Book Club, Barb. Long may it live. cropped-80ryzdj8ue.jpg
  • Thanks to the members of my newly formed and growing-stronger-every-month writing group. We found each other by accident, but what a happy accident. We support and challenge each other and make the long hours at the computer worthwhile. You’re amazing writers; don’t ever stop writing.
  • Thanks also to my longtime Writing Buddy Louise. You’ve stuck with me through my various incarnations as a writer: dilettante; hopeful beginner; student. I love your poetry, admire your wit and am astounded by your wisdom.
  • Thank you from the bottom of my heart to my readers. Who are you guys? I want to invite you around for dinner! I particularly want to thank Calensariel Impromptu Promptings and peculiar ponderings. You have followed me almost from the start and I have learned a lot from reading your blog. I hope that, despite the kilometres of sea and land that separate us, we have become friends not only because we just ‘clicked’ somehow, but because you are a loving, compassionate, curious human being and you make me think. Raili over at Soul Gifts has also been a staunch follower, and … well I have 75 followers and I am rather gobsmacked by you all. Thank you for making it ‘real’ for me, for making me sit down at the computer and for the wisdom I read in your blogs.
  • Finally, thank you to my children. Your mother has always been a mite strange, but you’re accustomed to me now and you seem to cope exceptionally well with having a mother (and mother-in-law) who blogs. I promise I will continue to honour your privacy and share as little of your shenanigans as possible, unless you do something completely weird and then I promise nothing.

As I prepared my first blog post I remember feeling excited and uncertain. I worried that I would become caught up in a passing fad. I’ve since learned that blogging is not only about sharing my thoughts and ideas it’s about engaging with a variety of new and different thoughts and ideas. Blogging connects people.  Credit: Saved from images.search.yahoo.comIt is the equivalent of the village well, a meeting place where we draw sustenance from those also gathered at the well, where we offer succour to others, where we relate and  listen, where we strive to understand our lives and our world. I am honoured to be a part of this community.

What about you? How do you draw on the well that is blogging? What do you give and what have you gained since you started blogging?

The Creative Connection

Dino Reichmuth Do you yearn for connection but cannot fulfil that need? I once felt that ache, that emptiness, but the more I write, the more I immerse myself in the world of words and how to compose them, the less lonely I feel. Have I made that longed for connection? Maybe. What we long for, what is denied, what we often deny ourselves, scours our soul. When we stop denying it the hollow begins to fill.

When I write, I replenish the scoured sections of my soul.   Andi_Mai

Why is it so many people believe they aren’t creative? What if that belief was nothing more than a story we tell ourselves, a narrative we cling to? What if Virginia Woolf believed that narrative? J. K. Rowling, Margaret Attwood, Helen Garner? Maybe it’s what our parents, our lovers and our society want us to believe, because creative woman are dangerous. Creative women question the world, they challenge accepted social mores, they laugh at rules and regulations, they defy convention, they see problems and devise solutions and when those solutions don’t work they seek another solution and another and another.

Creativity is an inherent aspect of every single man, woman and child on this blighted little rock spinning in a vast, terrifying universe. I believe playing, creating, is the only way to vanquish the existential terror of being human.

I have a friend who claims she isn’t creative, but I have watched her play; I was there when she challenged herself, and others, to create innovative and meaningful solutions to a problem. She is creative, and I cannot understand why she refuses to believe it. Is, however, my inability to understand why she refuses to accept her creativity any of my business? Surely she has the right to believe what she wants and the right to put her energy into something else? Only she knows why she believes the narrative that she isn’t creative. Only she can decide to accept her creativity and what form it will take.   Origami_Flower

Maybe people baulk at claiming their creativity because creating a poem, a painting, a business or a unique piece of furniture is hard work. I didn’t realise how hard, how painfully hard, being creative is but I’d rather write than not write. Dishonouring my creativity is more harrowing than sitting for hours trying to fix a messy sentence or make a paragraph do what I want. My hard work might mean one story, one essay or one blog post will worm its way into the heart and mind of another who will read my words and think, ‘She’s right. I need to look deeper into myself, I need to change my narrative, be the creative person I am meant to be.’

Luca_RIf I can do that for one person I will, for a moment, be happy. And then I’ll sit down in front of my computer and try to do it again because I am, like you and every other person on the planet, creative and because, after too many years of longing, I can not be anything else.

 

Tell me about your creativity; have you yearned for connection or have you always honoured your creative gifts?

Guest Blogger: The Good the Bad and the in Between

I’m very excited to introduce my first guest blogger: Barbara Brown. I met Barbara ten years ago at Flinders University when we were enrolled in the Bachelor of Creative Arts. Like me, Barbara is a mother with a couple of qualifications and a successful career behind her, and like me she did her degree because she wanted to be a writer. We both did a PhD and in the last three years of our candidature we shared an office and the problems associated with intensive and personally confronting research. Barbara’s thesis, like mine, consisted of a memoir and an account of research into therapeutic writing, although our topics and main interests, as well as our backgrounds, are very different.

Barbara is also a fierce defender of the rights of asylum seekers. She actively supports several refugees, men and women who’ve experienced terrible situations in their own countries and found in Barbara not only a sympathetic ear but a source of sound practical advice and assistance. In case I’m making her sound like a saint, you’ll see from the opening lines of her post she is very human. Her post reminds us there are different forms of therapeutic writing and she has inspired me to adopt her approach.

V0C2CIXXN8 ‘Grumpy, grumpy, grumpy – I’ve been yelling at Jim all day. This is the result of doing too much for too many people over Christmas. Each year I promise myself I’ll say no, but when the time comes my need to be everybody’s friend gets in the way. There I go again climbing onto the self-sacrifice merry-go-round. You might want to laugh, but my inability to refuse requests has its dark side. Anyway, it’s over now, so time to shut up, put up and act more graciously.’

You have just read my journal entry for December 26th 2015. The fallout from doing everything for everybody had spread far and wide, but was mainly directed towards my poor husband who consistently maintained his innocence (yet who spent most of the day with his feet up eating shortbread?). As you can see, I have always used journal writing as a way of letting it all hang out. No holds barred.

Journals are my private release valve; a place where I can vent my frustrations and receive a sense of peace when I eventually put the pen down; but these entries are always pretty negative and I don’t want them to be a just record of my moaning. So, I thought I would tell you about another piece of cathartic writing I engage in. My gratitude list. This is where I record my serendipitous moments; the moments that bring me joy

I wrote this in bed one Saturday evening:

‘I am grateful for the smell of lemon scented gums in the park, winning a game of cards after tea, talking to Junie on the phone, and finishing the long overdue beanie for Maurice …’  Lemon_Sc_Gum

You get the idea. This is my Pollyanna time. A list of ‘thank yous’ designed to counteract my feelings of negativity. No matter how awful the day has been I can usually find at least half a dozen glimpses of happiness.

Both ways of writing are important to me, the need to release my anxieties and a place to remember that life is really pretty good. And over time I hope my gratitude list will grow longer and the list of frustrations ebb away. But I live in an imperfect world, and I am a long way from sainthood; so for time being I will rely on these two different styles of cathartic writing to help me stay me sane and balanced.

What do you think? Has Barbara reminded you of life’s bounty? What, right at this moment, are you grateful for?

 

Nothing

I’ve got nothing today; nichts, nada, rien. Searching through my ‘writing ideas file’ hasn’t helped. Writing a response to quotes for instance. What can you do with,

How marvelous books are, crossing worlds and centuries, defeating ignorance and, finally, cruel time itself.  Gore Vidal

or

It is good people who make good places.  Anna Sewell

that the authors haven’t already done? As for prompts, not even these stir my writer’s soul:

What are three things you’re grateful for …

Write a note to someone you miss …

There’s nothing I wanted more than to …

and beautiful or quirky images leave me cold:

Most of us, I would venture to say all of us who write, have days like these. Not writing can be a result of poor health, concern for a friend, an argument with a loved one,  too little sleep, depressing political situations (Australia is in the early throes of a Federal election. Many of us are beginning to flounder and we still have six weeks of electioneering to go!) I used to believe not writing was writer’s block, a terminal disease that, if it struck, spelled the end of a writer’s dreams. I no longer subscribe to that idea because I’ve learned that writing, like any other job’ is sometimes a drag. It’s hard for me to admit that; when I ‘retired’ I believed my writing life would be more interesting, more stimulating and more rewarding than teaching, and it is, but like teaching, like any job, can also be a chore. I feel guilty as I write this because it’s like saying, ‘Yes, motherhood is wonderful but can I stop now? It’s a bit of a chore, just like any other job really, and who wants a job?’

Seriously, who wants a job? I once knew a man who said his life’s goal was to sit on a beach and read, and I recently met another man who believes those of us who work in offices or have ‘careers’ are all ‘wage slaves’. Both of them have managed to live long and relatively productive lives, though the former waited until retirement to achieve his goal. I also think working is good for us. I don’t subscribe to the idea that labour defines us but, and this depends on our job, work is one way we contribute to society. It also puts food on the table.

Where was I? Oh, yes. Nothing to write, nothing to say, the words won’t come, no ideas except …

… I’ve managed to churn out around 400 words, include two interesting quotations, three prompts, five photographs, a whinge about politics (and by association, politicians) and an anecdote about two acquaintances and their attitude to work. It’s a blog post and it demonstrates, in its own small way, Jayne Anne Phillips’ comment that image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then there is William W. Purkey’s popular quotation, one of my favourites:

You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth.

I write here, about how much I love to dance, so, in the spirit of Purkey’s quote, and going well against the grain of writing a blog, This is my advice, to myself of course, when I’ve got nothing: image

 

 

 

 

Jayne Anne Phillips, ‘Cheers: (or) How I Taught Myself to Write’ in The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction: Tips from Editors, Teachers, and Writers in the Field, ed. by Tara L Masih Rose Metal Press.

 

Bits and Bobs

My grandmother had a drawer in her kitchen cupboard that she called the ‘bits and bobs drawer’. It held what she deemed important but didn’t necessarily belong in any of the other drawers, either by size, category, design or purpose. The bits and bobs drawer housed used circus ticket stubs, the instructions and guarantee for a toaster bought over two decades earlier, rubber bands so old they had started to perish and were adhered to each other like mates in an old folks’ home, and the ubiquitous short, grubby and blunt lead pencil.  Drawer02

Today’s post is going to be a bit like the bits and bobs drawer: for instance, yesterday was the first meeting of the writing group I and three other women recently put together. We found each other through a mutual friend, we’re all professional women, we all want to improve our writing and publish our work and we’re looking for sensitive, constructive support for our endeavours. Unfortunately, I arrived a few minutes late and the cafe I suggested we use for the gathering was closed for the day, so we had to quickly regroup. Despite the wobbly start, it was a wonderful meeting. My co-writers are talented, articulate, perceptive and sensitive; the writing Gods (Goddesses) were indeed smiling on us when we found each other. By the end of today, however, I need to contact the other members of the group and let them know about the venue for the next meeting and provide some written notes on our discussion…

…I’m working with two other people to organise a writing event (it’s very exciting, so watch this space) and I need to send them some material …

… Cadence has an audition this afternoon, the second this week (which is a rarity) so given we only own one car we have to juggle our schedules because I’m going for a walk with Glory this afternoon. Glory inspired my first post and, partly, this blog. In July it will be ten years since she was diagnosed with breast cancer, ten years of glorious survival, so today I want to discuss where we’ll go for a celebratory dinner. I took her out to dinner five years ago, and I’m looking forward to this coming July, the one in five years’ time, the one five years later and the one after that …

… I need to write a reference for another friend …

… Later today I need to work on a chapter I plan to submit for a book proposal. It’s about mature aged women who have written a memoir for their PhD. I’ve been promising to submit it since the end of last year and I must complete it by the end of this week but I’m not sure it’s possible because…

… Tomorrow I’m getting my hair cut and then babysitting, and on Friday one of my friends is launching her poetry book. Oh, there’s an idea for a future post: I’ll write about the book and maybe ask if I can share one of her poems while I’m about it.

But it’s the chapter that’s commanding my attention today. I need to pull it out from the bits and bobs drawer of my mind and deal with it. I don’t exactly have to ‘write’ it, just modify and reshape a small section of my exegesis. It’s not a difficult task, so why, over the last few months, have I baulked every time I’ve tried to finish it (and, therefore, have a chance to finally be published in a scholarly text)?

An exegesis is a written explanation of an artist’s creative, practice-led, academic research. Universities are finally willing to embrace PhD research that explores the dimensions and significance of putting an idea into action and making, in my case, a piece of ‘creative non-fiction’, specifically ‘life writing’ and, more specifically, a memoir. This means that as well as producing my memoir I was required to describe and analyse how I created it and what informed or shaped the process and the final product. Accordingly, I researched:

  • Women’s autobiographical texts and theories about life writing,
  • Various theories concerning narrative voice and narrative point of view,
  • The origins of the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears and how her tale was adapted and changed.

The most important part of my research, however, was into therapeutic writing and how a person writing as a form of therapy might gain extra benefit if they used both first person voice (‘I did, I saw, I went’) and third person voice (‘she did, she saw, she went’). That’s the section my contribution to the proposed book will describe. It’s also the section closest to my heart, the section where, for me (as I hoped it would), the healing occurred. That’s probably why reworking the exegesis is confronting. I have to retrieve it from the bits and bobs drawer, smooth its pages and read it again, and it feels like picking at a scar that’s puckered and still tender.

GoldBear  Writing my memoir and the exegesis took five years. In that time my marriage ended, both my parents died, I moved house three times, drove into the back of another car and, a month or so later, fell and broke my arm. It’s little wonder I’m reluctant to revisit that time, even though I’m proud of the work I did and of my memoir.

I’ll do it, though, because I’ve committed myself and I always follow through on my commitments. I may not send the blessed thing off this Friday, however, I might ask if I can have yet another weekend…

… and, finally, when I peered into my bits and bobs drawer I found something new, something my friends who have already retired told me I would discover: I am as busy now as when I was working. In fact I’m busier, and I don’t mind at all.

Your turn: Have you got a bits and bobs drawer, either real or metaphorical? What is hidden at the back of your drawer? How did it end up there? Is it time to clean out your bits and bobs?

A Moment More: The Challenge of Hint Fiction

At the end of March I posted three pieces of flash fiction (or, as I like to call it, ‘hint fiction’) and provided a short description of what hint fiction is. I’ve since found this article, which also describes the genre. Some of the books listed at the end of Laura I. Millar’s article, particularly the Margaret Atwood book, may be of interest to writers and readers who want to explore flash fiction.

220px-TentAtwood-200x300

In her comments on my post, my friend Calen, from Impromptu Promptlings and Peculiar Ponderings said:

I’ve read an awful lot of flash fiction on the blogs. I’m still kind of scratching my head about the whole trend. More often than not I want the stories to go on.

I replied that,

I also like stories that make me want more, but I’m going to take your comment as a challenge. I know you didn’t mean to challenge me but I’ll try to write a micro story that doesn’t leave its reader feeling as if they’ve missed something.

So, Calen, here it is. I tried to write it in the spirit of flash, or hint, fiction as well as fulfil requirements set out long ago to a very adventurous young woman by the name of Alice:

‘Begin at the beginning,’ the King said, very gravely, ‘and go on till you come to the end: then stop.’

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

RIMG0165 Hit Send

(A short, short story for Calensariel)

The door to her study had been left open and the air was icy. She shut the door, placed the cup of hot coffee next to the laptop, switched the heater on and sat heavily in the second-hand office chair. She took a deep breath, opened the file, and began to type.

Three hours later she picked up the coffee cup and took a tentative sip; the coffee, of course, was cold.

Two more hours passed before she finally hit ‘send’. Trembling slightly, she leant back in the chair and sighed. ‘Time for another cup of coffee,’ she said, though there was no one to hear her.

It was spring when the email arrived. She found it difficult to understand and had to read it several times.

When her husband arrived home he was greeted with champagne on ice, salmon steaks, a green salad and home made chocolate mousse. He also noticed the polished gleam of the refilled whisky decanter set next to the candles and the vase of Irises on the sideboard. He turned to her. ‘What’s this?’ he asked.

She beamed at him, unable to speak. It took several moments before he understood. ‘The publisher? They contacted you?’

His whoop was heard by their young neighbours who, momentarily alarmed, muted the television. When they realised it was only the strange couple next door, laughing and hollering fit to burst, they switched the sound back on and turned up the volume.

Alice_King

Photo Credit:http://www.alice-in-wonderland.net/wp-content/uploads/1book0.jpg

Seven Posts in Seven Days: Seven

On Blogging, Easter, Family and Gratitude.

Didn’t the days fly by? I’ve had great fun posting seven days in a row. I think my writing has benefitted, the blog seems to have taken on a new life, I’ve connected with some wonderful bloggers (some in far flung places, others closer to home) and read some inspiring and fascinating posts.

I’m writing today’s post from the dining table instead of my writing room. After all, it’s Good Friday and my partner Cadence, who does the cooking, is going to be busy in the kitchen and I don’t want to lock myself away today. We’ve connected his tablet to our sound bar and cranked up the music. Cadence programmed the tablet to ‘shuffle’ so anyone  from one of Stones, Pink Floyd, Freddie and the Dreamers, or perhaps Leonard Cohen, Mozart, Neil Young or Wagner is likely to join us as we go about preparing for the day. I’m sure that at some point we’ll hear a track that will make us stop what we’re doing and join together in a dance around the living area. It’s lucky there are no cameras about, just a couple of old hippies reliving their spent youth, or what they can remember of it.

Later this morning we’ll be joined by my oldest son and his family. It’s a typical Adelaide autumn day today; sparkling and fresh. Just right in fact, so we’ll eat lunch outside under the pergola. I’m a Spring and Autumn girl: I tolerate the heat of summer and the winter’s cold, but I embrace the balance and change that typifies the equinoxes – the word says it all, doesn’t it? Say it out loud, slowly. E-qui-nox: equal day and night; harmonious; symetrical; proportionate.

From old iPhone 778

The rest of Easter will be quiet. We’ll see a movie and on Sunday we’re going to the local Irish club, as Cadence’s ancestors came from that grand isle. Hmmm, Maybe Monday won’t be so quiet after all?

And now, gratitude: I am grateful for my life; for the relative peace we are lucky to have here in Australia; for my friends, those who’ve been a part of my life for well over thirty years, and the new ones I’ve met through the grace of the internet. I’m grateful for my family, those close by,  those on the other side of the country, and the new family I discovered when Cadence and I joined our lives. I’m also grateful for the gift of writing some capricious god with a wry sense of humour decided to bedevil me with. My writing has helped me understand that, as Auguste Rodin said,

The main thing is to be moved, to love, to hope, to tremble, to live.

My wish for this Easter, my wish for everyone, is that wherever you are and whatever your faith or creed, you will be with friends, family and someone you love and who loves you. I hope there will be music, or art, or a good book, or a beautiful tree or distant mountains in the background, but most I hope there is peace in your heart.

On Renaming and Existence

Please believe that one single positive dream is more important than a thousand negative realities.

Adeline Yen Mah

Elixir: a magical or medicinal potion. From Arabic and Greek, meaning ‘a powder to dry wounds’ or a magical substance that changes metal to gold.

Over the last six weeks I’ve thought a lot about this blog and the direction I want it to take. I am tired of being serious; I want to play more, explore more, take more risks. What will it feel like to write from the heart?

I spent time with my writing buddy this afternoon. I drank hot chocolate and ate a chocolate almond cake; she had a cappuccino and nothing to eat. We laughed. A lot. We talked about her forthcoming book of poems and my plan to enter at least two short story competitions a month. I told her I want to try writing more prose poems. She told me about her new bathroom.

Friendships are the powder we sprinkle on our wounds. Laughter is a potion that shines golden light on an afternoon in a café. Writing is a restorative. When I started this blog I had firm ideas about what I wanted to do; now I’m not so sure. To re-name is to change how a person or thing is known.

The other day I had an appointment with the Department of Human Services, Australia’s federal agency for the aged, job seekers, families, migrants and refugees, and people with a disability. Despite having availed myself of their services several years ago, and retaining the same ‘reference number’ (aka an identity number), when I reregistered with them I had to supply three separate documents as proof of my identity. At the end of the process I laughed and said, ‘And now I am a person?’ The woman on the other side of the counter smiled. ‘Congratulations,’ she said, ‘you exist.’

Yes I do, but I do so much more.