Time to Share

I don’t normally share or reblog posts but today I want to encourage you to have a look at my friend and colleague, Ben Brooker’s, new blog, Kate’s Words, and then go over to Brevity and see what they’re up to.

Ben is a respected critic, essayist, playwright and author of many published short stories and poems. Several of his reviews are featured on his original blog, Marginalia. Given his interests, Ben’s writing style is invariably precise, rigorously researched, and intellectually subtle and balanced. In Kate’s Words,  Ben plans to slough off scholarly strictures and relax his writing muscles. I’m eager to see what his blog produces and very tempted to follow his lead. I also like the premise – have a friend send you a word and free write on the word to see what emerges.

Because I cannot find a definition of  ‘free writing’ in my normally trusty Oxford English Dictionary (Grrr, OED) I have to resort to Wikipedia, which defines free writing as

a prewriting technique in which a person writes continuously for a set period of time without regard to spelling, grammar, or topic. It produces raw, often unusable material, but helps writers overcome blocks of apathy and self-criticism. It is used mainly by prose writers and writing teachers.

This article gives you a deeper idea of what freewriting is and the angst often connected with trying to do it in the classroom. I admire Ben’s willingness to share his free writing because I am usually a bit ‘precious’ about what I write. As Peter Elbow writes in his article,

I’m a bit ambivalent about shared or public freewriting. On the one hand
I tend to avoid it in favor of private writing. For I find most people’s writing has suffered because they have been led to think of writing as something they must always share with a reader; thus we need more private writing. On the other hand I love the sharing of freewriting – for the community of it and for the learning it produces. It’s so reassuring to discover that unplanned, unstudied writing is worth sharing.

Peter Elbow
‘Toward a Phenomenology
of Freewriting’, p 52.

So, Ben, if you’re reading this, send me a word and I’ll try to be brave enough to share one piece of unplanned, unedited, raw work.

This allows me to segue into the second blog I wish to share, Brevity,favourite of mine because it features (carefully edited) short creative nonfiction, sometimes known as narrative nonfiction. Brevity recently celebrated its 20th anniversary and it’s currently running a series of fascinating blogs where, as Shane Borrowman the editor of The <750> Project explains, four authors

return to a previous publication and take on the task of either shortening their piece or expanding it.

Asking writers to modify a previous article is a bold move, and the writers are to be admired because of their willingness to do so publicly. It is also a brilliant way to help beginning writers, indeed all writers, improve and enhance their practice. I hope you take the time to check it out. The first example can be found here.

In the meantime, over at Elixir’s sister blog Concise, I have stuck to my routine of writing and posting a piece of flash fiction every two days. I’ve posted five stories and there’s two more to go; I cannot continue the project indefinitely because running two blogs and sending other pieces to competitions is about as much as I can handle at the moment.  I have, however, really enjoyed the exercise and I hope you’ve enjoyed the stories.

Your Comments:

What do you think of Ben’s method for loosening up his writing? What is your favourite writing prompt or activity? What do you think of Brevity’s <750> Project? Have you ever tried to shorten or lengthen a piece of writing? How did it feel and what did you learn?

handbook_Blank

Meanwhile, over on Concise …

During my recent trip and since my return, Concise, my companion blog has languished. To remedy this, and to exercise my ‘writing muscles’, I plan to post, every second day for fourteen days, one of my short, short stories on Concise. Yes, I hope to attract more readers to the blog but I also need to reboot my daily writing practice and maybe this method will inspire me and intrigue others.

Please go on over to Concise and take a look. I’d appreciate it if you share my stories with your readers, comment on the tales either here or on Concise (writers love feedback, particularly if it is constructive), and subscribe to Concise. If you write short stories or Flash Fiction, drop me a line, I’d love to have more guest bloggers, or perhaps write a post/short story for your blog. Concise_Write

I don’t plan to preempt all of my stories, but today’s post on Concise is, I think, about a woman who learns how to commit herself. I hope you enjoy it.

Elixir has a Companion

Sometimes being concise, to the point or sparing, achieves more than being long winded or verbose.

Regular readers will remember I enjoy writing and reading short, short fiction, otherwise known as Nano, Micro, Flash or Hint fiction.  I had a modicum of success with this genre last year when one of my stories was longlisted for the joanne burns Award.

image description
image description

It was published last month in Landmarks and to celebrate I decided to create Elixir’s sister blog, Concise.

THE NEW SITE is tottering about on unsteady feet at the moment but I hope to add more stories in the next few weeks and eventually open it to other writers of short, short fiction. In the meantime, I am shamelessly flogging my new creation to all and sundry in an effort to make it feel welcome. Feel free to visit, read the stories, comment, follow the blog and share the site with your friends.

Thank you,

Janet

Reading: Why I Love to Write, Part 5

I love to write because (not that I need a reason), writing is a good reason to read …

…widely,

… deeply,

… outside my comfort zone,

… alone, on a bus, in a cafe, every day, several times a day, upon waking and before going to bed.

Reading_Library

For me, a world without books is a night sky without stars.

It’s been said before, but a writer who doesn’t read is like a cello player who refuses to practice. There is little point in picking up the bow that is a writer’s instrument, a pen, unless the hand that grips the pen (or plies the keyboard) has a book close by. If you want to write, don’t listen to anyone who tells you to avoid reading books because books will ‘influence you’, or because you may unconsciously ‘copy’ the author’s voice or style. Books, plays and poems are your teachers, even poorly constructed, banal books will teach you something valuable; what not to do. This means you must read critically, mindfully, analytically but also with abandon.

This is the final blog on this topic. A friend told me last night he was pleased I acknowledged the positive side of writing. Our world seems, lately, to strain under the weight of negativity. We know things could be better and many of us seek a path through and around our despondency. May your path be strewn with books, may it be a paper trail at the end of which is a fountain spilling over with your lovingly collected, collated and celebrated words.

Happy Writing

pen-fountain-pen-ink-gold-39065

You are welcome to share: What was your happiest writing experience?

 

 

 

Imagination: Why I love to Write, Part 4

Imagine is an ancient word, borrowed from the Old French, from the Latin ‘imaginari’, which means, ‘to picture oneself’ although imagine currently means to form a picture in one’s mind.

To write is to imagine, not just an image but an idea, thought, impression, place, even a feeling. Can you imagine being present when the words below were first uttered or written? What or who do you imagine prompted them?  What happened next?

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.

Henry David Thoreau

The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.

Albert Einstein

Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power to that enables us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared.

J. K. Rowling

Otherwise

A wise woman reassesses her priorities. She stops occasionally to work out what is important, what her values are. A wise woman knows life is a matter of fine-tuning. She takes stock and either polishes life or discards that which undermines her well being. I find myself in that moment: I am in need of space; I need a break. What was important nearly two years ago, when I started this blog, warrants recalibration. I look out of my window and I see the season is shifting; I drink coffee with a friend as she weighs up her options while burdened with many, too many, anxieties trying to crush her audacious spirit. 

Life is change; mindfulness is accepting change, even daunting, scarifying change. As I attempt to think this through, the word ‘otherwise’ comes to mind. From the Old English ‘on othre wisan, the prefix ‘other’ implies ‘distinct or different from’, while the archaic meaning of ‘wise’ is ‘the manner or extent of something’ as in ‘he did it this wise’. The word is related to ‘wit’, which means ‘to have knowledge … to see.’ I find I have a new knowledge of myself and my writing, different to the knowledge I had of my self and of writing in 2015. My ‘season’ as a writer, has changed. I can do little more than abide the change.

I am going to take a ‘blog break’ for the next seven weeks. I need to mind my health and prepare for a challenging and liberating journey to the other side of the world. I want, in addition, to draw on and clarify the confidence my blog, and my readers, have given me.

I do this with a deep sense of gratitude. Thank you for reading this blog. Thank you for your comments. Thank you for your support. If I decide, at the end of my break, to change direction please know it is because this blog, my readers and the experience of being part of this amazing community has shown me that,

… all experience is an arch wherethro’

Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades

For ever and for ever when I move.

How dull it is to pause, to make an end,

to rust unburnished, not to shine in use!

‘Ulysses’ Alfred Lord Tennyson

On Womankind

It’s too late to recap 2016 and the first twelve days of 2017 have slipped away, so chronicling my hopes and goals for the year seems redundant. Maybe it’s time for a cliché: where has the year gone?

In my case the year has been plagued by indifferent health. I haven’t been gravely ill, merely laid low with a mean, stubborn chest infection. I felt no desire to sit at my computer; editing the novel I drafted last November was beyond me and even reading a novel seemed too large a task. I turned, therefore, to my pile of mostly unread Womankind magazines and found the perfect companion for my convalescence.

Womankind, an Australian magazine, was launched in 2014. The first issue (the only issue I don’t have) featured Simone de Beauvoir who, I believe, would be happy to grace the cover of one of the few advertisement free, celebrity free magazines in the world.

Womankind is an advertising-free women’s magazine on self, identity and meaning in today’s society. (Its) aim is to introduce ideas that challenge contemporary thought and conditioning.

Womankind
Womankind Issue 10. Cover Illustration by Charis Tsevis

I purchase my copies from the local newsagent, but it is available through subscription in Australia, New Zealand (Aotearoa), Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. It is edited by Antonia Case and produced by the folk behind the New Philosopher, an

independent quarterly magazine devoted to exploring philosophical ideas from past and present thinkers on ways to live a more fulfilling life. (It) caters to those who have not studied philosophy, as well as philosophy students and academics.

New Philosopher is also advertisement free.

I like Womankind because it doesn’t talk down to its readers; it treats them like independent, intelligent and thoughtful women. While it covers difficult issues, it also explores a range of options that can help create a better world and it consistently encourages and validates women’s creativity. The images and ideas contained in its pages encourage readers to think differently about the world and themselves. In issue nine, for example, readers are asked to help the editors compile a list of life enhancing ‘mental attributes’ a person might be ‘diagnosed’ with. An only slightly tongue in cheek request, the idea is to counter the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a tome which describes the ever-growing range of mental and behavioural disorders, with more positive and life enhancing attributes. The editors cite ‘café cordiality – the joy of chatting to others, especially in cafés’ and ‘sky gazing compulsion’ as examples of attributes we might aspire to. My attribute would be ‘book hugging – the joy of embracing a book before, during and after reading it in appreciation of its insight and charm.’ What would your chosen attribute be?

Womankind helped me make it through the first twelve difficult days of 2017, a year many of us are understandably wary of. Immersing myself in a graceful, thought provoking, beautifully produced and illustrated magazine that treats its readers with respect, gave me hope for the rest of the year. It encouraged me to take the time to meditate, to reflect and to rekindle my gratitude journal. It was like having a compassionate and gentle nurse constantly at my bedside, a companion who, during the drear days when I was forced to rest and battle whatever it was that ailed me, offered respite, nourished my mind and enriched my spirit.

November is Done, Hello Melbourne

November has come and gone and not much of it was spent blogging; that’s what happens while working on a novel. I relished my first NaNoWriMo; I hit 50,000 words on the 28th, validated my novel and yesterday set out for Melbourne, Australia’s second largest city and an  eighty minute flight east of Adelaide, for my reward.

The plan was to fly to Melbourne and explore the city while my partner attended a conference but because he was offered last minute work I had to fly in on my own. I woke at dawn yesterday and arrived in Melbourne before nine: the entire day was mine to enjoy.

The Yarra River, looking back to the South Bank

I first visited Melbourne in the 1970s but on that occasion, and every visit since, had no time to look around. This time I have (or had) four days. Situated on the banks of the Yarra River, Melbourne is sometimes the butt of jokes about its capricious weather. As Raili over at Soul Gifts has recorded in a recent blog, the weather was indeed the cause of much distress recently. Despite this, I love Melbourne. So after checking in to the hotel and wandering over to Federation Square

Federation Square


I headed to the National Gallery of Victoria.

Foyer of the National Gallery

Five hours later I was replete. The first exhibition I saw was David Hockney’s ‘Current’. Hockney, at seventy nine, has embraced hand held devices as an artistic medium. His images are reproduced  on numerous iPhones and iPads throughout the exhibition, but also as larger images, such as the one below:

David Hockey from The Arrival of spring in Woldgate


Hockney’s exhibition included eighty two portraits and one still life; all in all I believe the exhibition featured 1200 different images.

After a break I saw Transformations: The Art of Fashion According to Victor and Rolf, a fascinating pair who merge fashion, art, rebellion and technical skill, making as they go, perceptive and critical statements about modern life and the fashion industry.

The final exhibition I visited was Italian Jewels Bulgari Style, which was also quite exquisite but somehow a little gaudy and avaristic after the first two exhibitions.

In the evening I saw ‘Burning Doors‘, the most compelling and profound piece of theatre I have ever seen. But more on that in my next post, once I have managed to think it all through a little more.

After a drink with friends to talk over what we had witnessed, I went back to the hotel where, just before midnight my partner joined me. When his conference is finished we plan to share more Melbourne adventures together.

I’ve written this blog in the State Library of Victoria, which has been a somewhat frustrating process. (I miss my computer, obviously my skills with an iPad are not commensurate with David Hockney’s). It’s time to take a break and visit the reading room, maybe take a few photographs and then venture back to Federation Square where there is food and entertainment on offer.

Melbourne, you have more than delivered, I am grateful you are my reward.

(This blog was edited on 8th December 2016)

DRY TIMES, LESSONS FROM A THREE YEAR OLD AND KINDNESS

DRY TIMES

It’s been a slow week as far as writing is concerned. Maybe the ten-day photography challenge wore me out or perhaps it’s simply one of those weeks when words stagger across the computer screen, trip over each other and refuse to form a coherent sentence.

Instead of worrying, we can see these dry periods as an opportunity to doodle about on the page instead of trying to write something ‘serious’. Maybe I should heed the words of the Dalai Lama:

Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.

LESSONS FROM A THREE YEAR OLD

The day before I completed the #developingyoureye photography challenge I handed my grand-daughter my compact, point-and-shoot, carry in your purse, camera. It’s fairly indestructible, so once I showed her how to turn the camera on and what happens when she puts her finger over the lens, I handed her the camera and took her out into our small garden and let her play. Here are some of the results:

A three year old doesn’t compare herself to others, she knows nothing about ‘should’ or ‘ought’ but she does know a lot about play, the sheer delight that comes from doing something because it’s fun.

As I watched my grand-daughter run from one object to the other I was confronted by my desire to ‘make art’ instead of letting myself play and discover. A small garden and a precious child taught me a lot about perspective and how to frame my world.

KINDNESS IN THEORY AND PRACTICE

The Buddha tells us that,

A generous heart, kind speech and a life of service and compassion are the things that renew humanity.

I received a package this morning from my daughter-in-law-who-lives-interstate. Inside were four jars of gluten-free muesli, a loving gift of unexpected kindness. I’ve not been able to spend as much time as I would like with this new addition to our family but this morning I learned she has a kind and generous heart. I am lucky to have her in my life.

The dry (writing) time will end but I expect I’ll continue to learn more valuable lessons from my grand-daughter and my daughter in law. To rephrase the Dalai Lama, not getting what I want made me appreciate what I have.

When was the last time not getting what you wanted turned out to be a stroke of luck?

 

Developing your Eye: Day Ten

Going Monochrome

Today is the last day of this challenge. I’ve enjoyed taking part and I’m extremely grateful for my readers’ interest and positive comments. In addition to learning more about photography and cameras, I’ve discovered some wonderful blogs. Stepping from the world of words, sentences and paragraphs into the world of images, the rule of thirds, f-stops and shutter speeds has opened up a new way of seeing and thinking about my world. Thank you everyone.

I also want to thank my partner who patiently followed me around as I framed and shot some of my pictures and then, as he always does, edited each post. This post, and this photo, is dedicated to him. I took the photograph several years ago and it is my partner’s favourite bridge. Known as ‘City Bridge’, it is part of Adelaide’s central business district’s main thoroughfare. It was proposed in 1929 after floods destroyed three earlier structures and was designed to deal with the increasing volume of traffic entering and leaving the city. Completed in 1931 it is, as can be seen, a concrete structure that also features beautiful lamp fittings and pylons designed by South Australian artist John C. Goodchild.

DSC_5771 (2)
#developingyoureye: ‘City Bridge’

In a way, this photograph represents one of my goals: to create a bridge between my writing and the  images I hope to capture with my camera. I still have a lot to learn about creating those images but I hope more of them will appear on this blog.