Category Archives: Reading

Neck Skin is Detachable

babe22We last left Cricket wondering who was at the door and thinking how beautiful her mother is…

There is seriously no-one beautifuller in this entire world than my Mum… her legs have freckles on them that look like chocolate drops, and her arms are so chunky and strong that even when I’m too tired to hold my head up she can carry me anywhere I need to be.

I bang a cupboard door open and closed, open and closed repeatedly because Mum didn’t even leave me a toy to play with. She’s such an enigma. And then there’s a weird yelping noise and I wonder if Hoot brought Mum another pet dead bird. I strain my neck to see down the hall. All I can see are Mum’s bare feet and another pair of feet in sparkly shoes. I can’t wait any longer for Iris to be in front of me singing Let it Go. And I can’t sit here with nothing to do but bang a stupid brown (brown means poo) door. And I can’t wait any longer to touch those SPARKLY SHOES so I start to wail. I start off slow and quiet because I’ve learnt there’s nothing more dramatic than a build-up. I’m only midway through when a giant, sparkly, Christmas bauble with legs comes running down the hall, straight towards me, shouting CINNAMON CRICKET!! at the top of its voice.

GRANDMA IS HERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It’s too much. I fall backwards and bash my head on the floorboards. I go quiet and Grandma stands over me and we’re both stock still for a few seconds and I’m starting to realise that hurt quite a bit and it wasn’t what I wanted to happen and maybe I’m in shock, but before I can wail, Grandma scoops me up in a shiny, glittery, perfumey hug and then hangs me upside-down to look at those sparkly shoes. What a rollercoaster!
I’m hanging upside-down with my head dangling close to the floor and all the blood in my body rushing to my eyeballs when Mum walks in.
‘Mum! What are you doing?!’
‘Showing Cricket my new shoes.’
‘Mum, don’t dangle her, you’ll break her ankle!’
‘You can’t break a baby, darling.’
And now Mum has me under my arms and Grandma has my legs and I’m suspended in the air and Mum is looking like she looks when she thinks I’ve swallowed a carrot stick without chewing it (never happens, never will, but Mum thinks it every, single, time) and Grandma looks like she’s just won the lotto.

This is going to be GREAT!!!

Mum wins and yanks me free of Grandma’s twinkly hands. She has rings on EVERY FINGER! She schmooshes my cheeks.
‘Oh my sweet girl, look how big you’ve grown!’
I launch into a dissertation about how big I am and how I can’t crawl yet and how frustrating it is and how Iris poos in a bucket and how Hoot is sort of my friend now and how glad I am that she’s here.
‘Yes indeed my talky girl! You are big and I am very happy I’m here too!’

IT’S A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE!!! GRANDMA UNDERSTANDS BABY LANGUAGE!!

I squirm ferociously in Mum’s arms, throwing myself towards Grandma as hard as I can.
‘Guess she wants you.’
Mum hands me over and so much is twinkling I barely know where to start so I grab dangly earrings and pull. Turns out Grandma’s lobey things are much stretchier than Mum’s lobey things and Grandma doesn’t even care that I’m stretching them down REALLY far. I pull harder. It’s the best fun ever!
Mum starts making coffee and Grandma kicks off her sparkly shoes and sits cross-legged on my play mat and let’s me keep trying to slide her ears off of her skull.
‘You’re not mad are you darling?’
Mum looks around at Grandma and smiles her I’m-fine-but-not-actually-smile that only dad and I know what it means.
‘Of course not! It’s great you’re here. I’m just surprised. I thought the show was still filming.’
‘Well you’re meant to be surprised! Filming finished yesterday and I just couldn’t wait any longer to schmoosh these little cheeks.’
Grandma schmooshes my cheeks again and I grab her nose and turn it. I have a theory that noses can actually turn upside-down if you twist hard enough. I’ve also worked out that it’s better to test this theory on old people because everything on their bodies has more give. Grandma doesn’t seem to mind, which hasn’t been my experience so far when I test out my nose theory. She must be a very tolerant person. I make a mental note to test out my other theories on her tomorrow:

  1. Lips are detachable
  2. Eyelashes are food
  3. Bellybuttons are homes for teeny tiny people and must be filled with food to save the teeny tiny people from starvation
  4. Knees bend the other way
  5. Ears are detachable
  6. Elbow creases can be microphones as well as vomit receptacles
  7. Eyeballs can come out
  8. Tongues aren’t real
  9. Neck skin is detachable
  10. Boobs need to be slapped in order to work.

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Filed under Baby, blogging, Books, Family, Fiction, Friends, Humour, Inspirational, IVF, Love, Motherhood, My Book, Reading, Women/Feminist, Writing

The Bleeding Typewriter

WritingHem_blogWriting. It drives writers mad. It drives me mad. It’s so important to me that I ignore it for months or years at a time – because it hurts to think what I’m doing isn’t good enough. As the years pass and I get better at it, and I feel better about it, and myself, those hurts and fears start to retreat and what’s left is the process of writing itself – what Ernest Hemingway called bleeding at the typewriter. So, really, it’s never going to be easy. That’s been a slowly dawning realisation for me, and an extremely helpful one.

Apart from bleeding at the keys, I have a problem of being split between writing projects. I basically write for a living – it’s not creative writing, but it’s helpful writing – it has to be economical as well as thought provoking and inspiring. It helps my creative writing, no doubt. I also write theatre reviews, and I’m back blogging, and I’m about to be doing some corporate blogging as well. But the writing I really want to be focusing on is my fiction writing – my new novel and the odd short story. This is a lot. I think it is anyway. And after a day at the keyboard at work I rarely feel like coming home and working on my own projects.

I think maybe the key to all this is the bleeding thing… I don’t sit at my work keyboard and bleed. Theoretically, I must have a whole lot left in the tank – I have six litres of the stuff after-all. I think it’s about fatigue. When I do sit at the blood-inducing home keyboard I tend to gravitate towards smaller projects. I write a blog post (as I am now – about wanting to work on my novel, but not actually doing it), or I have a review to write, and the novel is put aside yet again for “when I have more time”.

Aye, there’s the rub. From this point in my life, I will only ever have less time. If the IVF stars align soon, I will be in the midst of baby-time (which, according to everything I’ve ever seenreadheard, means there IS no time for anything else), my career is only going to get more full-on the longer I’m in it, and I’m getting old and have to spend more time on yoga and other limb-limbering pursuits. So, shouldn’t the time be NOW? Isn’t this the prime of my life? The time where I’m still child-free, but old enough to be wiser and more witty? Why am I STILL PROCRASTINATING?!

Honestly, I think I was born to procrastinate on long goals that are important to me. It just seems to be my way. Give me a short-term goal and I’m all over that baby! I guess the answer is persistence and prioritising what’s really important to me. Not to mention learning that I can work on a long piece of writing even if I only have twenty minutes to spare. I think, over the years, I’ve come to find my peace with the balance between blood and enjoyment. I can’t not do it – write – so I have to do it, blood’n all. Simple. Right?

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Filed under blogging, Books, Communicating, Criticism, Editing, Family, Fiction, Flash fiction, Health, Inspirational, IVF, Motherhood, My Book, Reading, Review, Short Stories, Women/Feminist, Writing

What IS Under the Dome…?

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I’m reading Under the Dome and really struggling to finish it. I spent most of July sick in bed and wanted a tome of the escapist variety – which isn’t really what a tome is, but you know what I mean. So I asked my sister, who has the entire Stephen King collection in her house (it’s impressive) if she thought I’d like it. It turns out I don’t. Some of my favourite books are by Stephen King, but I definitely don’t like all of them. I did get into in the beginning of Under the Dome. I mean, Stephen King is master of beginnings, right? He has been known to spend years on an opening paragraph – not only to get that Stephen King hook right, but because he says a lot of the time a thoroughly crafted opening paragraph helps him work out the characters and the plot.

The beginning of Under the Dome is a cracker: cows get sliced in half, people get separated from one another, planes crash into a seemingly empty space, and no-one has any idea what this dome actually is. It’s classic King. But, dear god, does he drag it out! The part I’m really struggling with, though, is that the more you get into it, the more two dimensional the characters become, especially the evil ones, who have no light and shade. I’m not watching the TV series, so can’t see how the writers and producers of the show have dealt with that, but in such a long book, it does make for some tedious reading.

I must admit, when I was recovering in bed, I ripped through it and enjoyed it well enough, but now I’m back at work, back into the minutiae of life, I’m just not picking it up. To me, that’s the sign of a really good book – the book you hold in one hand and eat or do the dishes with the other; the book you stay up late in bed reading despite the early morning meeting the next morning. That happened to me recently with The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.

I’m am going to finish it though – I can’t get this far and then not find out what the bloody dome is! I actually don’t care anymore, but… oh well, you can’t get this far through a 2000 page book and then stop right at the end, right?! … Right?

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Filed under Criticism, Fiction, Reading, Review, Science fiction, Stephen King, Writing

Exploding Labia and Creative Vortexes

vortex

Well hello there. Here I am with another ‘where have I been?’ blog post. I must stop being so random.

Simply, I’ve been in an interesting hiatus. My reproductive bits do like to rule my life for months on end, you see. I’ve done more IVF again (unsuccessfully) and I’ve had surgery – which brought with it some unexpected complications. These complications did embody some somewhat humorous (nee disturbing) happenings. I’ve submitted an article to Mamma Mia about said happenings and if they’re crazy enough to reject it (it involves exploding labia so I can’t, for the life of me, imagine why they would), I’ll be sure and post it here for your unbridled amusement.

The best thing about a creative hiatus is the creativity that follows it. After many months of slogging it out in my day job, and then enforced lying around in bed, a vortex of creative juices has opened up and words are, you know, falling out of it. Cool huh?

I’ve started a new (as yet tentatively titled The Letters) novel, the idea for which came to me during several days of enforced bed rest. I was reading so much my eyes were packing up so I had to rest them too, so with nothing but the powers of my own brain to amuse me, I came up with a great idea! (Who knew my brain could DO that??) I’m also guest blogging for a wonderful new company – I will reveal which as soon as they go live – any day now. And I have a short story published in the latest Etchings (Illura Press) literary journal, which is due to hit the shelves in October.

So, I’m back, it seems. It’s been an odd six months – working and breaking and healing and resting. I guess it’s all part of the ebb and flow of my journey as a woman and a writer on this earth. For now, I flow, and I invite you to join me.

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Filed under blogging, Books, Etchings, Fiction, Health, Humour, IVF, Motherhood, My Book, Reading, Short Stories, Women/Feminist, Writing

The Collector

Some readers are impressively committed to their favourite authors. (Hopefully my own readers will be thus committed one day… when I’ve, you know, actually written enough stuff to warrant commitment.) My sister is one such person. She has rows and rows on her (ever-increasing-husband-constructed-what-would-she-have-done-if-she-married-a-man-who-can’t-make-stuff) bookshelves committed to single authors. Her Stephen King collection is complete. I’ll give you a moment to wrap your head around this. It’s a work of art well before you open a cover.

I am not such a collector. In our house we have shelves dedicated to Australian authors, American authors, Classics, Feminism, Film, Spiritual, Cooking, Art, Short Stories etc (god this makes me sound cleverer than I am, I really need to add this to my LinkedIn profile somewhere), but my biggest haul of books with a single author’s name to the spines is my Ian McEwan collection.

I’ve had a love of Ian McEwan since I read Saturday several years ago. I’ve posted before about how the craft of Saturday influenced my novel (the good one). I loved every ultra-long, semi-colon filled sentence of it. It started my McEwan collection, which has since turned into an interesting exercise in the often somewhat blind loyalty of the collector. I want to love everything he writes. But his last two books left me disappointed. I bought his lastest novel, Sweet Tooth at the airport on the way to Perth. This wasn’t my intention. I had a Phillip Roth tucked into my handbag, but that was unceremoniously slung into the suitcase when I saw the new McEwan. The problem is, I didn’t much like it. It’s written in first person with a female protagonist, set in the early 70s and, for me, he doesn’t get into the head of the character well. It’s not a feminine voice. Of course, there are moments of Ian McEwan brilliance. That’s inevitable thank goodness, but, for many reasons, I didn’t love it. I really liked the play on the literary world in Britain he is now such a huge part of, including the kind of odd use of his own short stories from his old collections, but I felt like I was reading just to get to the twist at the end that I knew was coming and it just didn’t make for a satisfying journey.

The book before Sweet Tooth, Solar, was particularly unsatisfying for me. So what does the Collector do from here? Do you continue to collect? – I suspect I will – or do you stop after a certain amount of disappointments?

What do you do? Who do you collect?

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Filed under Art, Books, Criticism, Family, Fiction, Food, My Book, Perth, Reading, Review, Short Stories, Stephen King, Writing

Forty, Feminist, Fabulous

I am 40 in March. 40! It feels weird to me. I’ve only been married five years, I still have no children, and, frankly, I don’t look 40. Of course, I’m not altogether sure what 40 is supposed to look like. It looks like, what you look like, right?

 Well Jennifer Lopez is 43 and she looks like this.

Cameron Diaz is 40. She looks like this (airbrushed of course):

40 looks like what your genes gifted you, how much time and money you have, and how much you want to focus on your body and looks. A huge part of me wants to look like JLo and Cameron, and I have been gifted enough of the sorts of genes you need to achieve a shorter, bigger-nosed version, but at what cost and, more importantly, for whom would I be doing it for? And by ‘doing it’ I mean the incredible dedication, time and work it takes for women in their 40s to look like Diaz.

My husband doesn’t want me to do it for him. He loves my little love-handles, because, well, they’re not called that for nothing, and when I was a whippet from all the exercise I used to do, all he had to hang onto was some ribs, which apparently just isn’t the same.

That leaves me and the rest of the world. And, well, I seem to have a hard time distinguishing between me and the rest of the world, despite the fact that I doubt the actual rest of the world cares in the least what the hell I look like, or who the hell I am. But as a western woman that’s what you learn, from very very young – that you must look a certain way in order to be an acceptable, desirable being. This is something every woman I know knows. We rail against it when we feel strong, but it’s still, if not more than it has ever been, such a tangible, confronting thing for women.

I am bombarded every day with images of women that I will never live up to. And while I feel so much more removed from the expectations that come with this because of my age and my relationship, my heart aches for the young women around me. As I get older and more pissed off I’m slowly allowing myself to feel less obsessed with marrying myself to these images.

I’m also exhausted by the confusion and the internal conflict. As all the women I know are. All of my friends are dieting at the moment. All of them. And yet we all also try very hard to love ourselves, just as we are. It’s very hard to do both well, simultaneously.

But then, women are amazing creatures. Look at what we have been through and achieved in the last century. Most of it in silence. I do think this craziness will soon turn into something extraordinary. As long as women start talking – to young girls, to young women, to men, to one another – we can end this unfathomable obsessing over  the outside – over being instead of doing.

As Caitlin Moran puts it so very well in ‘How to be a Woman’:

       I presumed that once I’d cracked being thin, beautiful, stylishly dressed, poised and gracious, everything else would fall into place. That my real life’s work was not a career – but myself. That if I worked on being pleasing, the world would adore, and then reward me.

       Of course, this supposition that women are supposed to just ‘be’, while men go and ‘do’, have been argued as inimically sex-tied traits. Men go and do things – wage wars, discover new countries, conquer space… whilst the women inspire them to greater things, then discuss afterwards, at length, what’s happened: like Ena Sharples and Minnie Caldwell over a bottle of milk stout.

       But I don’t know if I believe ‘being’ is an innately female thing to do… I would suggest that when you’ve spent millennia not being allowed to do anything, you do tend to become more focused on being self-critical, analytical and reflective because there’s nothing else you can do, really, other than a) look hot and b) turn inward.

      Would Jane Austen’s characters have spend pages and pages discussing all the relationships in their social circle if they’d been a bit more in control of their own destinies? Would women fret themselves half to death over how they look, and who fancies them, if this wasn’t the main thing there were still judged on? Would we give so much of a shit about our thighs if we, as a sex, owned the majority of the world’s wealth, instead of the men?

Right. 40, honest, expressive, feminist, doing, relaxed, happy, love-handled and fabulous – here I come.

 
 

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On Beginnings, Steven King, Butch Lesbians, and Spaghetti…

Beginning a new long work of fiction is hard (for me anyway). I’m there now and attempting to sort of storyboard likely scenes between my characters. I thought I’d rip out a prologue for fun and see if that helps move things along. I doubt it will survive the chopping block, but it’s sort of fun, so here it is!

Prologue

Dear Reader, (didn’t Charlotte Bronte start a book like that? Oh well. I doubt her book was full of wog mama butch lesbians and food sex. Butch lesbian spaghetti sex wins out over an insipid girl in a petticoat running across a moor. Obviously.) I wanted to write a truly beautiful, literary, coming of age novel, dripping in tight, punchy prose – an intelligent expose of Gen X angst, with, you know, lots of big words in it. But this story is literally about butch lesbian mothers who ride Harleys and date women with beards called Pam (the women are called Pam, not their beards) and it doesn’t seem quite like the right story for lashings of lugubrious literary genius. Obviously my next book will take the literary world by storm.

You know everything Stephen King wrote in ‘On Writing’? I’m going to do the opposite. Not to be argumentative, oh no, I adore that book, but because everything he says not to do in good fiction is ALL THE FUN STUFF, like using italics and caps and exclamation marks for emphasis, like using first person narrative and ellipses and too many adjectives. He says one is enough. One adjective! ONE!!!

Reader, I married him! No, only joking, I really didn’t. I got confused, reader. Very, very confused. Here, let me tell you. Sit back, Reader, make yourself a stiff drink and put your feet up.

My name is Angel. It’s a stupid name, but I had stupid parents. That will become abundantly clear. There are ups and downs to having a name like Angel. The main up is that no-one ever sounds like they’re mad at you. So, Once a Upon a Time in the lurid 1970s… Okay, hang on, I just have to say here that in ‘On Writing’ Stephen King also (as does every other writing aficionado that ever graced this earth with their presence) suggests never to write about yourself. Well… fuck THAT!!!

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Filed under Art, Books, Charlotte Bronte, Fiction, Humour, My Book, Reading, Sex, Writing