Thursday, 23 July 2015

The Power of Observation

It took me writing a lot of words to find how to write the right words.

What I mean is this: I've been writing in journals for well over a decade and that has been very useful. I still write in a journal most days. Even if I begin the entry by whinging and moaning, by the end of it I've turned things around (or the writing has turned me around) and I'm feeling inspired & ready for the day. I rarely re-read my journal. It's a purge for me, a splat on the page, an exorcism of sorts.

But there is a different kind of writing that requires me to pay more attention, to notice, to look out into the world, to develop point of view. It's as simple as noticing what's around me and writing down those observations. I say simple, but like most good new habits, it does take a little while to get into the swing of things.

In her address at the 2015 Humana Festival of New American Plays, Ann Bogart said:

"I've written in a journal every day since I was about thirteen years old.When I was eighteen, I had a friend who said I shouldn't write in a journal what I did, I should write three observations. So then rather than saying: today I went to a bank and then to a restaurant, instead say: I noticed today in front of the bank there are more homeless than last year. It was really hard ... So in order to get unstuck, I would question the words you use, the story you tell, and can you do more than just report. Can you actually do the extra effort of point of view?"

So this is the writing challenge: to write 3 or 4 or 6 observations in your journal every day, or most days. Notice the detail of life.  Be specific. Use all of the senses. One of the intentions is to stop you from generalising or summarising. After all, it's detail that makes stories interesting, emotional and believable.


C x



I’ve written in a journal every day since I was about thirteen years old. When I was eighteen, I had a friend who said I shouldn’t write in a journal what I did, I should write three observations. So then rather than saying: today I went to the bank and then to a restaurant, instead say: I noticed today in front of the bank there are more homeless than last year. It was really hard. I tell this to directors: it’s the job of the director to develop the point of view. So in order to get unstuck, I would question the words you use, the story you tell, and can you do more than just report. Can you actually do the extra effort of point of view? - See more at: http://howlround.com/the-role-of-storytelling-in-the-theatre-of-the-twenty-first-century#sthash.wlHTFdhx.dpuf
I’ve written in a journal every day since I was about thirteen years old. When I was eighteen, I had a friend who said I shouldn’t write in a journal what I did, I should write three observations. So then rather than saying: today I went to the bank and then to a restaurant, instead say: I noticed today in front of the bank there are more homeless than last year. It was really hard. I tell this to directors: it’s the job of the director to develop the point of view. So in order to get unstuck, I would question the words you use, the story you tell, and can you do more than just report. Can you actually do the extra effort of point of view? - See more at: http://howlround.com/the-role-of-storytelling-in-the-theatre-of-the-twenty-first-century#sthash.wlHTFdhx.dpuf
I’ve written in a journal every day since I was about thirteen years old. When I was eighteen, I had a friend who said I shouldn’t write in a journal what I did, I should write three observations. So then rather than saying: today I went to the bank and then to a restaurant, instead say: I noticed today in front of the bank there are more homeless than last year. It was really hard. I tell this to directors: it’s the job of the director to develop the point of view. So in order to get unstuck, I would question the words you use, the story you tell, and can you do more than just report. Can you actually do the extra effort of point of view? - See more at: http://howlround.com/the-role-of-storytelling-in-the-theatre-of-the-twenty-first-century#sthash.wlHTFdhx.dpuf

Monday, 20 July 2015

What is Reasonable and Democratic? #freethearts

In case you hadn't heard, earlier this year Minister for the Arts George Brandis announced an $104.8 million cut from the well established & democratic national arts funding body The Australia Council. Why?  To fund Brandis' own proposed National Programme for Excellence in the Arts. How can he do this with no consultation or peer review process? Just because he can. Who will be most affected? Small to medium arts orgs and individual artists. Result? A whole lot of anger and questions  from Australia's arts sector. You can read and sign the open letter to George Brandis, Australians for Artistic Freedom. And have a look at the details of the Senate Inquiry into the impact of Brandis' decision. (Report date for that one is September 15).

Please, don't do nothing.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people do nothing.

 

So Please, do something. The deadline has passed for letter submissions to the Senate Inquiry but you can still write a letter and send it to your local member and State Senators. 

  • There is a list of contacts at the bottom of this post. 
  • Send a letter by post rather than email. It is widely believed that this has more impact.  
  • Not sure what to write? Go here for a template.


I struggled to stay within the one page suggested template. Nevertheless,  my letter has  been sent to the Senate Inquiry into the Impact of the 2014 and 2015 Commonwealth Budget decisions on the Arts. I couldn't help but get a little cheeky .. here is the little prayer that I included:


THE PRAYER 

Dear God,

Poor Minister Brandis. Clearly he is unwell. Please grant him as much resilience as the Australian artists and companies whose livelihoods are affected by his unbalanced decision making: The small to medium companies who intended to apply for the now scrapped Australia Council’s six-year funding program; the independent artists who were going to apply for the axed June grant round; the communities and artists affected by the cancelled ArtStart, Creative Communities Partnership Initiative and Artists in Residence programs. And they are just the tip of the iceberg.

God, I’m sure Minister Brandis didn’t mean to say ‘F*!k You Lot’ to the Australian arts sector. Please grant him as much humility, creativity, good sense and gsoh as the wonderful Australian artists who are not employed by Australia’s major performing arts companies and who often struggle to earn a minimum wage.

Amen

ps Let him know that when I say ‘grant him’, I don’t mean he has to apply for a grant. God, no! He is far too busy making important, reasonable, democratic decisions; I totally understand he has no time for that applying-for-grants palaver.
 



List of  contacts:
The Prime Minister, Minister for the Arts and South Australian senators 



The Prime Minister
Hon A.J. Abbott MP
Member for Warringah
PO Box 450
Manly  NSW 2095
The Minister for the Arts
Senator G.H. Brandis
P.O. Box 143
Albion DC QLD 4010
South Australian Senators

Senator  N. Xenophon
Level 2, 31 Ebenezer Place
Adelaide SA 5000
Senator S.C. Hanson-Young
Level 7, 147 Pirie Street
Adelaide SA 5000

Senator P.L. Wright
PO Box 8117
Station Arcade, Adelaide
SA 5000
Senator A.M. Gallacher
265 Churchill Road
Prospect SA 5082
Senator A. McEwen
PO Box 55
Torrensville Plaza SA 5031
Senator P. Wong
PO Box 6237, Halifax Street
Adelaide SA 5000
Senator C. Bernadi
PO Box 2192
Kent Town SA 5071
Senator S.J. Birmingham
107 Sir Donald Bradman Drive
Hilton SA 5033
Senator R.J. Day
77 Fullarton Road
Kent Town SA 5067
Senator S. Edwards
187 Grenfell Street
Adelaide SA  5000
Senator D.J. Fawcett
Commonwealth Parliament Offices
Suite 4, Level 13, 100 King William Street
Adelaide SA 5000
Senator A. Ruston
PO Box 1671
Renmark SA 5341

 
 

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Story of your life in 100 words

I've recently begun teaching creative writing at Mockingbird Lounge. As a result, I have revisited many writing exercises while also discovering new ones. I'm particularly interested in exercises that force me to think hard about how I use language and what the story is that I'm telling; I like exercises that push me out of my usual old patterns of writing. 

Here is one that I'm loving at the moment:

Write the story/biography of your life in 100 words. 



Create limits/conditions for yourself such as:
  • Use only single syllable words
  • Omit the use of 'the'
  • Tell lies 
  • Write the story using only questions
  • Create biographies of your characters

This month I challenged the Mockingbird writers to do this exercise using only single syllable words. This created a different kind of voice than the one they were used to writing in. One writer slipped into a child-like voice and automatically began writing about a significant moment in her childhood when her family moved from the country to the city. It was strong. We felt the emotional impact of the change in environment on the child in that story.

Here is my draft effort of the above exercise. As well as the single syllable restriction, I allowed myself to lie:

Memoir of a Girl

I am tall. A girl with strength. A girl with balls. I was born from an egg. I crawled. I walked. I ran. You ran with me. Who is that? Who is that? Who is that? Where am I? What am I? What should I do with my life? Trees. Grass. Sea. Friends. Books. I like sweets. I love cold fruit. Sky is my friend. I dream. I know. I feel. I think. I love my dog. What is your name? Who is your Mum? Who is your Dad? Where are they now? Sounds in the night. The moon smiles at me. I bow.

The first line is a lie. I found it freeing to begin with a lie. It made something 'ping', seemed to create complexity in my thoughts. Physically I am not tall but as soon as I wrote that first line I knew that I feel tall. So the line is less of  lie than a bending of truth or even a re-modelling of what truth is. This is obviously a draft, a beginning, but you get the picture of how it forces a change in voice, in the way we tell story? Allow that change to happen. Run with it. You might be surprised at what turns up.

Try this one at the doctor's surgery or when you're waiting for any appointment, or at a coffee shop. Write the biographies of people around you. Better than reading Women's Weekly. Does anyone read WW anymore?

Happy writing,

C x

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Audio Stories available in #MicroLitMonth

Spineless Wonders Flashing the Square
This month, Spineless Wonders will  celebrate Micro-literature of all kinds through Microlit Month.  

Each day in July, an audio version of a piece of micro-literature from a Spineless Wonders anthology will be published on SoundCloud and shared through Facebook and Twitter. You can stream/listen to the audio via SoundCloud. 

1st cab off the rank is Angela Myer's 'To and From Your House'.

And #2 is Emma Beech reading 'One Blue Eye' by yours truly.

Other authors include Susan McCreery, Jon Steiner, Shady Cosgrove, Jude Bridge, Richard Holt, Julie Chevalier and plenty others.

#MicroLitMonth. Get on over to Spineless Wonders SoundCloud and have a listen. Better than television, yah?





Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Where to go when you've got no time to write

We've all complained that we don't have enough time to write. And yet, when we do schedule a block of precious time, we manage to find plenty of other things to do, besides write. So much unstructured time! So many choices! We often don't know how to get started. Writing is scary. I'll review that - getting started at writing is scary. Once we're in the flow, fears get forgotten and focus is shifted to where is should be - on the poem, story or whatever it is we are writing.

But how do you actually get started? If you live in Adelaide, I might have a solution. On the first Tuesday night of every month I run a writers group at Mockingbird Lounge. It's casual, low pressure, and you will spend most of your time writing. 

When is it?

  • The first Tuesday of every month, 7-9pm.

Where is it?

  • Mockingbird Lounge: 63a Broadway, Glenelg.                 Ph: 08 7007 2242

Who it for?

  • Experienced or inexperienced, anyone who likes to write. This group is about generating new work. You can't edit what isn't there.

What can I expect?

  • To write for most of the 2 hours. You'll be provided with exercises and prompts and you write for 10-15 minute blocks at a time. 
  • Sometimes we build on the exercises, looking for emerging patterns and themes in the work, but not always. It's your writing practice, you can adapt the exercises to your needs on the night.

What else can I expect?

  • To share what you've written. Yes, reading aloud! This is important and not as scary as it sounds. 
  • A handout of writing exercises. You can refer to these at home when you find some more precious time to write.
  • To write at least half a dozen pieces, and to be surprised by what you have written.

What is it not?

  • There is an opportunity for constructive discussion but this is not a group where you bring along already prepared work for critiquing. The writing happens on the night.

How big is the group?

  • On average, 5-10 people.

What's my investment?

  • 2 hours. $20.

Why do I need a writer's group?

  • You don't. But if you want to get some ideas on how to get started, how to keep going, learn the building blocks of writing, broaden your writing experience (that desk can get lonely, huh?), be surprised and inspired by what you can achieve in a supportive environment, then this  writing group might be for you. Oh, and you are allowed to laugh.

Did somebody say cake?

  • Yes! We eat cake while we write! Stacey at Mockingbird makes excellent coffee and the cakes are pretty fine too. (She even does High Tea) Eat cake while you write? Can there be a better way to have a good time? Just saying.

What if I can't make the first Tuesday of every month?

  • No problem. Come when you can.

What if I can't make the first Tuesday of any month?

  • Send me a message in the comments section. We might be able to work something out.

Have I missed anything? 

  • Send me your questions.

C x

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Storycast #7

Storycast #4. Photo by Ben McGee
I have the pleasure of reading again at the live Storycast readings organised by Sam Jozeps and South Australian Writers Centre.

I'll be joined by:
  • MC - Sam Jozeps
  • Aimee Knight
  • Robert Horne
  • Nicole Orr
  • Katherine Arguile

It's on tonight. From 6.30-7.30 at the SAWC 187 Rundle Street (2nd floor)

It's a free event.

Further details at: Storycast #7

I'll be reading my short story 'Who Likes Custard?' published in Spineless Wonders Stoned Crow anthology.

See you there!

C x

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Trouble Sleeping?

Having trouble sleeping?

Here's something for you:

Storycast, a series of live-streamed late-night readings of poetry and short stories. 

Planned and MC'd by the wonderfula Sam Jozeps, the Storycasts are recorded live from various spaces throughout Adelaide and South Australia. 

Each live Storycast features new and old work by late and living writers. 


Tonight's broadcast is Storycast #4 and I'm on the bill with other writers/readers Katherine Arguile, Sky Harrison, and choir Choral Grief. You can Listen In in real time at 10.30pm (Australian Central Standard Time). That means 11pm for you eastern states folk and 9pm for friends in the West. If you live somwhere else in the world, you'll have to do your own calculations. Google Timezones.

But don't worry if you miss the live broadcast (because it's an school night and you need those zzzzz now that you're older than 30), you can listen back at any time that suits you thanks to the wonders of modern technology.

Happy listening. Let us know what you think :)

C x