Sunday, March 28, 2010

Dearth Hour

I guess observing Earth Hour in Melbourne during the weekend of the Grand Prix must have been a Comedy Festival act.

If so, it was pretty funny: sitting around in the dark with candles, ears ringing from the noise of all that burning fossil fuel.

Hilarious really.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tools of Trade

I wrote this post for Damon Young who is publishing a series about the various tools writers use on his very interesting blog, darkly wise, rudely great. I met Damon when we both read at the Wheeler Centre.

I began writing in school, seduced by my love for reading, by an imagination that was my favourite companion, and also – if I’m entirely truthful – by the reactions of teachers. I wrote serialised stories for my friends, taking the plots in directions my audience liked best – early focus groups, I guess.

There are times these days I am so laden with words that I can haul them in with a clotted biro onto the back of a shopping docket. More often I am reduced to humbling myself, enticing reluctant syllables with whatever it takes to induce the necessary brain state, the way I coax my goats with sycamore leaves and week-old bread. Mugs of tea or coffee, squares of dark chocolate, and almonds that I roast and store in jars in my cupboard, all work. Coffee shops do the job. This black Artline fine tip pen; this journal scribbled in an exercise book small enough to transport in a handbag; poems for inspiration and prompts, or books whose writing sets up in me a buzz that forces me from their pages to my own; music to set the mood and then silence, or else the same track played endlessly on repeat.

Early morning, before the security guard in my head reports for duty, I sit up in bed, hunched over my journal to catch the shape of my thoughts. While the guard snores in his rumpled sheets, his mouth slack, my words fall free of his censorship onto the page; they romp and play forbidden games. Later in the day when he’s at his post, clean shaven and implacable, inspecting each word, I turn to transcribing my work onto my laptop; I edit and revise, saving the next burst of creation until the officer takes a nap.

Composing in a journal is safe – it doesn’t count – it’s just unprocessed ramblings. Nothing to concern the guard. After all, no-one but me will ever see this, I assure him, not meeting his eye. Sometimes he believes me; sometimes he doesn’t.

These are the tools I use: these lies, the alarm clock, the lock on the door, the tea cosy on the teapot, solitude. And the sound of the scratch on the paper as my handwriting emerges from the pen’s tip of its own accord, forming words I hadn’t even known I was thinking, that become sentences, paragraphs, chapters, that take me along for the ride.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Reading the Writing

Last night I read extracts from chapter one of Alzheimer's: a Love Story at the third Wheeler Centre Debut Monday. The other three writers on the night were an energetic young philosopher, an American born novelist and a loud performance poet. They were all amazing - talented, polished and confident. Beforehand we hung out in the Green Room, chatting about writing-related topics -such as the fun for young parents of leaving children with grandparents, and how good Russell Crowe's American accent is. (This second issue has puzzled me for some time now: given that we Aussies can pick a fake Australian accent in a second, does Russell Crowe's American accent convince an American? According to the author of Dancing Backwards in High Heels it does.)

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the evening. Most of my time as a writer is spent refusing invitations. I am desperate for solitude, hate the phone and other interruptions, crave the company of my own thoughts. But last night I loved the performance aspect, hearing the audience react when I hammed up a line or played up the pathos of a situation. And I had a ball afterwards, chatting with my writer friends who'd come to cheer me on.

I'd describe myself as a shyish person, so I was surprised by how much fun I had. And I get to do it all over again tomorrow night at the Sandybeach Centre in Sims Street Sandringham when I'll be delivering a talk about my book. I'm sure I'll be nervous at the time, but right now I'm looking forward to it a lot. Meeting readers and discussing my book with them - what could be nicer!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Mole Creek, Early Autumn

In Mole Creek each of the four seasons has its own distinct personality. This week even a trip to Deloraine on a regular workaday morning was transformed by an autumnal mist:

Down the driveway,

Along the road,

and off to town.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Opinion Makers

Last night on the ABC's First Tuesday Book Club, Jason Steger, who is the books editor of The Age and someone whose opinion I greatly respect, highly recommended Alzheimer's:A Love Story.

Below you can watch a very short segment where he calls it 'touching and poignant'.

How excited am I!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Onemilebridge End of Summer Jam

Ah, the first day of autumn is upon us. Here in Mole Creek we celebrated with a temperature of 0.4 degrees centigrade at around 7.15 this morning, though it warmed up to a pleasant 17 by late morning.

I love autumn. There's still heat in the sun though the breeze is cooler now; the evenings continue to draw out and the vegetables and fruit in the garden loll about ripening.

A few days ago we picked a bagful of the apples from one of the street trees we pass on the way to the post office, and an ice cream container of blackberries from the canes that cling to the fences. Then, to mark the end of summer, I made a batch of blackberry and apple jam and called it Onemilebridge End of Summer Jam. Here's how I made it:

I very slowly stewed one kilo of blackberries in about 60 mls of water, then did the same to about 350 grams of apples. The apples we'd picked were perfect because they were very tart and lost their shape completely, so my jam would have no lumpy bits in it.

After I'd mixed all the fruit together and weighed it, I stirred in an equal amount of sugar and boiled the mixture, scraping off the scum and then continuing to test it until it was done.

As usual I found this last bit nerve wracking, but I know if it's underdone I can always reboil it, whereas if it's overdone it's useless.

We'll eat the jam through the winter months, on homemade bread and crumpets, tasting those summer hours of daylight that were ours to squander.