Writing is not on the menu for me at the moment. With teaching and marking and copyediting and any number of other little jobs all demanding attention nownownow, I don’t have the time or the headspace that writing requires. I can potter on smaller projects, like picture books, but it’s busy work mostly; it’s tiny gestures towards writing so I can tell myself it’s okay, that I’m still doing it – look, see? But the truth is that I can’t really make any creative progress until I move the other piles, and to some extent, myself, out of the way.
So in the meantime, I’m reading. All sorts of things. Here’s a snapshot from the last few weeks:
It’s kind of all over the place, really, but I guess in some ways it’s a snapshot of me. There are kids’ books in there partly because I write for kids and partly because I have a new nephew and partly because I like to keep up with what my daughter is reading. There’s poetry in there because I am, or have been, a poet, and somewhere in the midst of all the skateboards and the exploding hoses and the difficult, demanding ducks, that side of me has slipped quietly away. And I need to have it back. The adult books are mostly recommendations from friends – thanks to Julia Lawrinson for The Vintner’s Luck, which I finally got around to after only five years. And Art & Fear is there because, well, you know.
When I talk to school groups, I sometimes show pages from my notebooks, or bits and pieces of paper where I’ve jotted down story ideas. And in doing so, I often make the point that neat handwriting is a very good thing. Because sometimes – quite often, really – when I come later to read what it is that I’ve written down, I find that I can’t, that the idea I remember as being so very brilliant is in fact a meaningless series of squiggles. Or I get to the shops and discover I can’t decipher half the items on my list.
But sometimes things work the other way. Sometimes having terrible handwriting leads, accidentally, to all sorts of surprising connections. In poetry workshops, I’m always talking about making words jostle up against words they wouldn’t normally hang around with. And sometimes this is what happens when I try to make sense of my own writing.
Dear poets and friends,
Recently the poetry community was struck with some terrible news. As a result of the bush fires in Kinglake our dear friend and sister poet Ella Holcombe lost both of her parents.
We are holding a fundraiser here in Perth to support Ella. “Regenerate: The Greening of Kinglake” will be an evening of poetry and song, featuring poets such as Kevin Gillam, Andrew Burke, Lucy Dougan and Sarah French, together with a silent auction of donated goods.
I will be reading at the fundraiser and would love to have your company on the night. As suggested by the venue and timing, this is an event for adults, rather than children.
Six days of poetry workshops, readings, panel discussions, book signings, and reader-meeting are over. It was both excellent and exhausting. I met some wonderful writers, read some poems, sat in on all kinds of lively discussions, and got to talk about Going for Broke to a lovely al fresco Family Day crowd. If you came past to say hi or have me sign a book, feel free to drop me a line via my ‘Contact‘ page. I always love hearing from readers.
Something else I love is turning up approximately three minutes late to a panel discussion on short fiction and finding standing room only at the (large-ish) venue. It is a real pleasure to be part of such a vibrant community of readers and writers. Thanks to everyone who helped make it happen and everyone who gobbled it up with such gusto. Please, sir, can I have some more?
I read poems beneath a sign that read “Beer Garden This Way”.
((sigh)) Another childhood dream accomplished!
There is other news, coming soon, but it’s Christmas, with all the madness of the season, so posting time is few and far between. Watch this space. Don’t take your eyes off it for a second, not even to open presents.
Cottonmouth XI happens this Thursday. There’ll be musical acts, open mic and a swathe of invited readers. I’ll be on around 9.15, reading a few poems from Cleanskin. If you’re in the area, come along. If you’re not, catch a bus or train until you are in the area, then come along. It’s relatively simple, really.
This one isn’t for kids, though (if the image on the poster doesn’t clue you in, the venue probably should). This is part of my other life, the one in which I sometimes stay up well past my bedtime.
Perth poet Andrew Burke is featuring a poem a day on his blog HiSpirits. Local WA poets have been asked to provide one poem with accompanying commentary on its origins or evolution. It’s something I always find interesting, although a listener at a poetry reading once gently admonished me that if the ‘explanation’ was longer than the poem, it was perhaps time for a re-think. You’ll find me there on Tuesday 23rd September with my poem ‘Blowhole‘.
If you have a moment or two to spare for some fine local poetry, do check out HiSpirits.
Two of my favourite things, in one place, for the low, low price of not very much at all. See the flyer for details. I hear places are filling fast.
The length of time between this post and the last represents how long it took me to recover from Book Week. Two weeks? Not too bad, I think, given that I had a solid ten days of work, a husband overseas, a sick dog, a daughter turning eleven, and two copyediting deadlines smack bang in the middle.
It was an energising, exhausting and above all, fun week (or two, in the case of some libraries). We talked about images and broken bones and the dangers of too much cotton wool around kids. And ducks. We talked about the way a duck seems to be insinuating itself into everything I write at the moment. After some gnashing of teeth, I have decided not to fight it. When the duck calls your name, it’s a good idea to follow it. In the words of the incomparable Michael Leunig, “I think a nation is in trouble that cannot accept a duck.” Watch this space for some duck-related books hopefully coming your way in the next year or so.
If you recognise the lyric I’m quoting above, you are probably too old to read my books!
So, it’s been a while, and there are reasons for that. I’ve had some time off, but am starting to find that writing space again. Here’s a summary of what I’ve been up to over the last month:
Writing: completed a picture book and a short novel and sent them off with fingers crossed. Uncrossed fingers again because I was finding it difficult to type, and started a new novel. This is another short one and is coming quite quickly so far, which is usually a good sign. I’m also working on a picture book, something I’ve been playing around with for a year or so. It’s very conceptual and a bit tricky to write, but I’m in love with the idea, so keep hammering away at it. Hopefully I’ll find a way through soon.
Launching: attended the launch of the FAW(WA) anthology Lines in the Sand, which contains my poem ‘Ancestor Games’.