Monday, November 30, 2009

Highlanded here

This is where it all began, except that it didn't really. This picture was taken at a secret location in New Zealand's South Island. P.S. It's a secret because it's also the setting for my novel in progress. Shhh!

I recently had a second story/poem up at Ink, Sweat & Tears (remember The Fish Wife?) and for any of you who didn't see it, you can read it by clicking on the moth below. As I mentioned in this post, I am going to tell you what inspired this piece, which I called "Your Favourite Colour".

Insects photographed in Dunedin airport.

These pied, pseudo-eyed lovelies were pinned onto five sides of a foam cube in Dunedin airport. Imagine my joy when I saw them - no really, I was completely fascinated by them! I may be frightened by most bugs, (and moths and butterflies, if large enough, do flutter at the periphery of this phobia) but I do find them captivating and spend a lot of time looking very closely at them - in books/jars/cabinets. More on the critters later: I am still working on the bug poem I posted a couple of weeks ago. I began drafting it two weekends ago but it turned into an 8000 word story - oops! Last weekend I typed that story up, as well as doing more research reading for my WIP and a little writing for that, also. I'm as busy as a bee...enough of the creatures for a moment...and am currently decorating my daughter's room. No intrigue yet?

Image taken from "Homes & Antiques" back issue.

Well, it was whilst thumbing through old "Homes & Antiques" magazines and paint colour charts with a view to finding my daughter's favourite colour - you see, it's coming together now - that I came across this image, above. I wasn't sure what it was but it looked to me like a seat cushion made from old papers. What do you think? And I thought the blue looked very soft and worn and lovely. But I also remembered watching this Ted Talk on colour and illusions:

Remembering this, I took a second, closer look at the blue and noticed how the fibres were breaking away and that the seat was in fact made up of many different shades of blue, and that the blue only appeared that shade of blue in relation to the other colours in the picture: the neutral shades - the warm tones which accentuated the blues - and then I played around adding different colour cards to see how they would alter my perception of the blue seat.

Image from "Homes & Antiques".

And something started to tingle in my brain and I got excited knowing I was growing a story. You can call it inspiration if that works for you but for me it is like hundreds or thousands (or some other too big to actually bother to count number) of flash cards which are all electronically tagged. Anything which makes a connection to an existing thought or memory in my brain jumps into place like the opposite poles of a magnet and I know I'm onto something.

Image from "Homes & Antiques", plus Dulux colours of New Zealand - funny: looks just like yellow and blue to me!

I flicked through some more pages and there was an article about a Scottish castle, I don't remember where exactly it was but I've been to Scotland a few times, most recently the west coast and the Highlands four months before I moved to New Zealand, and I had seen old stone buildings, like the one featured in the magazine, there. I had a real connection and an emotional response to the images I was looking at - a good sign.
Image from "Homes & Interiors" - again.
I had real interiors in response to the ones in the magazine and photographs of beautiful scenery to prompt my memory. I thought of "The Fish Wife" which, although I didn't mention it when I blogged about it, I had actually set in Mallaig on Scotland's West coast. From there I remembered Arisaig, Ardnamurchan, Ben Nevis, Ben Lawers, and lochs and those funny little pine tree filled islands you see in the centre of the lochs, all of which I have photographs of. However, I still had a "proper" reason for looking at the magazines and I continued to browse for the perfect shade of blue.

Image from "Homes & Antiques", a really old one, about four years old - I had them given, alright?

While the Highlands were wiring themselves into some sort of story in my head I saw these frosty images and, again, noted how the blue was more attractive for being beside the neutral warmth of, in this instance, wicker.

You guessed it - "Homes & Antiques" - yes, I do have other interiors magazines and no, I didn't buy any of them, and yes, they are all old ones!

And here, the path sets off the frosty box hedging. Hedging reminded me of walls and I had a complete setting.

Image from "Homes & Interiors", bla, blah, blah.
I remembered a conversation I had with my host in South Island, asking me if I thought the scenery there reminded me of Scotland. It did and it didn't. I was, however, splicing the two places together in my head when I thought of ways to describe the neutral shade and the fibres of the blue seat (which had now become a crushed velvet - like moth wings).

The rabbits I had read about in the museum on my South Island trip, the hunting also, plus I had masses of similar imagery archived in my memory, as well as our own pet rabbit. There were deer farms in South Island and we saw a dead doe with a chunk of flesh bitten out of its rear: tufts of its fibres breaking free and blowing in the breeze. Old buildings had shingled roof tops.

All of this, and more, went into "Your Favourite Colour" but the really interesting part is, I wasn't conscious of any of this until after I had written it. What actually happened was:

I was flicking through magazines looking for a shade of blue I liked for paint. I felt a story coming on. I started writing and what I was writing reminded me of "The Fish Wife" and I thought, wouldn't it be nice if this were a sort of sister for that piece. The words came out automatically, I barely had to think, aside from researching a suitable moth, and when I read the "finished" story/poem - for it came out as is, with no redrafting - I had a realisation of where every element in it had come from and I thought you might be interested to know that.
I also want to thank Andrea, at Rainbow Notebook, for giving my story a special mention on her blog. Head over there if you really want some inspiration!
(On a side note - I'm having pc trouble and links are not working properly - am on to it!)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

I make up stuff

I was recently awarded two blog awards by That Elusive Line writer, illustrator and all round dandy blogger, Thomas Taylor. Thank you, Thomas, I am very honoured.

However, I did look at the list of things I had to do and my brain short circuited (not to be confused with the book Short Circuit by Vanessa Gebbie). There were simply too many numbers, sorry Thomas, and I would have felt like a fraud if I had copied the awards onto my blog and then not followed through with the terms of acceptance.

What I've done is come up with a feel good solution. A way for everyone to share in the enjoyment and praise with no numbers (well, three if you count the thirds). I am offering the Principle of Thirds Award to anyone who wants it. If you can be bothered to copy and paste this award onto your blog, it's yours. That's it. You don't have to pass it on but you can if you want to.
In line with the spirit of the two other awards and the recent blog craze to post some things which are true and some which aren't, here are some random facts about me and not about me.

I can click my tongue like horse hooves to the tune of the William Tell Overture whilst humming the same tune.

I can't swim.

I passed my driving test first time.

Awards, like painting, like photography, work on a principle of thirds. (I make up stuff so don't believe everything I write. Only a third may be true or, conversely, two thirds may be true).

This was fun! I might make up some more awards!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Telling my wares

This photo has a little to do with the flash fiction I've got up at Ink, Sweat & Tears. I'll explain later. But, remind me.

Bit of a school jumble sale of a post for you today. Got to be in quick to get the best stuff!

Thomas Taylor, over at That Elusive Line has generously nominated me for a couple of awards which I will gladly accept and do what is required of me at some point over the weekend - yes, it's Friday here, come on rest of the world, get your act together! (Note - deferring attention from my own tardiness!)

Got another piece of flash fiction up at Ink Sweat & Tears which I shall be dissecting for you in a week or so if you're interested to know what went into it and how it all started (this is my code for - you might think it's a little strange and therefore, that, by default, perhaps I am, also, but I'm not, honest governor, it's all got a very simple explanation, and phewsh, I'm normal really - and could I fit in another clause break? Probably not). It's called "Your Favourite Colour". Let me know what you think.

Goshkins, on a mish not to start a sentence with "so" and yet to cause the maximum agitation to all you grammarians out there! Any takers? We've sold all the quality goods now, can I ask anyone to take the last few items of this post off my hands - c'mon, it's pence. Nope?

Back in the van it goes then, you'll all have to wait until the next jumble to know what else I had to tell you!

Friday, November 20, 2009

See gulls fly

I didn't have a photo of an eagle, at least not one in focus enough to tell it was an eagle. Anyway, there are no eagles in New Zealand anymore.

You know when things aren't going to plan when you start a line with "I was going to..."

Well, managed to stave off that disaster. So, here's the thing, I was going to write a really interesting, stimulating, nay, I say veritable lyrical Officer and a Gentleman assault course for the mind, and I was going to tie that whole film thing (tenuous link for those of you reading between the lines) in and wow you all with my wit and...yeah, well look where that got me.

Well, what happened was, there was this dog. No, scrap that, there was this pack, big, hugemongously fearsome braying, barking, belching pack (if only the collective noun for dog began with a b) - heck, there was a back of belching beasts (why let stupid spelling rules spoil a quality bit of alliteration?)...and then I faffed about and read these and was more tickled by the degeneration of the comments thread than the jokes themselves and completely forgot what I was going to blog about.

And then, just like a flash of flashyness, I remembered: I was going to answer Steven's super duper questions from the comments in my last post about how do I write a poem and, specifically, how do I know it's a good one.

Remarkably it all ties in because the way I go about writing a poem is much the way I am going about writing this post: I think of something, I hear/read/see something and I think, that could work together, so I stick it together and something else pops into my head and then I go, wait, this is see? I make it up as I go along and sometimes I like it and sometimes I don't. The ones I don't like can, often after a period of solitary confinement (for them, not me) be redeemed with a little wordy personal trainer. The ones I do like I ask politely to wait in the green room and if we still get along after the show I invite them to dinner.

Here's one that's doing hard labour for being a crime against my potential for publication - hey, I'm not proud.

Cicadas 10/03/08

Won't get used to cicadas
breaking up the air with their
too loud noise, a cross between
electricity and clock.

Biting spiders will destroy
my quality of life whilst
flies continue to taunt me
with their filthy aerial

arrogance, refusing to
die when sprayed: insecticide
does not do as it says on
the tin. Won't get used to here.

Here's what I think is wrong with it (yes, the list is finite - just about). Firstly, it's too personal. Most of my poetry is personal, personal is not bad per se, but (I think) the poem must also speak to a wider audience, it must transcend the boundaries of the territory in which it was created. This p, p (nope, I can't even call it one), this aberration is still very much in the shadow underneath my own I.

Secondly, agh, forget it, it just doesn't move me enough to even want to dissect it. Which is odd, considering that it's written about a subject which causes me such a strong personal reaction, because this po, po - almost typed it (pooh) - doesn't get across any of the emotion or fear - any real feeling in fact.

Thirdly, hey, maybe I'm just over my phobia? Sadly, not: I have an earwig and a spider, and some as yet unidentified flying critter, in jars on the sill awaiting release, just like this bunch of worthless words. I may be able to turn them in to words worthy of an officer but they will never be....yeah, yeah, it was a tenuous link, remember? So here goes (making an ass of myself now): run - for the hills! (*Where the seagulls fly, on a mountain high, la, la, la!)

Friday, November 13, 2009

This hit

Live mean there's, erm, non-live traffic? Err, that would be stationary in a never to move again traffic way, as in permanently parked traffic; on the scrap heap! Recycle: it's alright after all! Lost the plot some days ago, before my sleeping hours were reduced by a small persuasive chap - that's not a euphemism, by the way - with mighty lungs and an ability to throw his toys out of his cot!

The internet - a world of mischief and ideas.

I have a poem to post today but as I was rooting around in my pictures for a suitable image - I know how you bloggers like a picture with your post - I came across this, which I had saved a couple of months ago, and thought I'd give a big high five to my blog readers in Bulls, and a thank you for making me chuckle. Yes - I'm immature, what of it?

Inspiration, it's everywhere, especially in these times when it's no more than a click away. It would be possible to sit here and never leave the knowledge well that is the internet. Sitting in front of a screen for hours on end is not the way I find inspiration, however, even if it is the medium which transforms my findings most quickly into stories and poems. I still like to get out and about, hence blog AWOL lately.

And here's why:

Come on let's go
I'll say and I'll
scoop up your two toothed, grinning,
compliant softness and we'll head
out into civilisation. Note book in hand,
we'll listen to random snippets of stranger
conversation you don't yet understand,
and notice peculiarities of description
to translate into language; and when
the notebook is heavy with
inspiration and my arms are tired
from carrying you, we will return,
and as you sleep I'll write,
and one day you'll be inspired.

If you want some more inspiration, Women Rule Writer is hosting a blogeriffic interview with poet Liz Gallagher where Liz talks about her collection of poetry "The Wrong Miracle", and where Nuala invites you to enter a draw to win the book. But if you prefer to buy your own, all royalties go to SANDS, the stillbirth and neo-natal death charity. So it's a win win situation. What are you waiting for? Check it out.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cease her

Picture this: two faces framed in gilt. Ornately carved laurel leaves
intertwined with golden vine.

I was going to post today about how I go about writing short stories but this arrived in the post and I want to read it, and if you are interested in writing or knowing more about writing short fiction, you should, too.

One face turned aside, ear lobe cushioned to lip, receives the hidden word. Curiosity runs its fickle fingers down your contorted spine as you lean in closer.

I was going to pick out a painting to top my post: a pixilated prize for those who seek a visual lure. And then the words came and made a frame. Now all I have to do is fill it, or do I?

He, or is it she, stares ahead and would close her eyes if she thought she could hear better for doing so, and doesn't see anything but the shape of the words going into her ear. She doesn't see the way the body at her side is poised to flee; doesn't see the the thing that glistens in the hand, inches from her neck: a ring? A blade? A torch, perhaps? She is unaware of how the eyes set intent upon her do curve with narrowed lids which mask their unreal colour so that only a tease of it can be seen by you. But you know that the eyes are shaped by ugly satisfaction or grim enjoyment. Lies, you say? Lies it is.

But what's a painting if not words coloured into shapes? We squint at clouds, at clods, at the mottled colours until we can find lines which our eyes translate.

Now it's your turn. Go on? No? Then end it.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Write place

Retro furniture installation courtesy of Isobel and Polly Pocket.

It's been a strange period, since I returned from my research trip: I don't seem to be making much of a dent in the information I've accumulated, but I have been busy.

I have written another short story (and when I say short, I mean SHORT: less than a thousand words). I seem to be able to write about an eight hundred worder in an hour. Oh how I wish it were then finished. Sometimes it is. Rarely. More often than not I end up going over them, again and again, tweaking and chopping, syntax juggling, that sort of thing. Unfortunately, for me, I did not allow myself time for double checking with two stories I sent off recently - won't be winning that competition - and found a typo and a ridiculous primary school crime "loose" instead of "lose". I fear my neighbours may have increased the volume on their idiot's lanterns when I saw that one and went AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!

Hey ho.

It's not all been a waste. A valuable lesson therein, me thinks. Me often thinks a tad too much in the hind of sight as opposed to the fore of it. Oh sight.

Since returning from South Island, where I tried to get a feel for what it would be like to live in the place I was studying (walking the streets so many times I knew what was where enough to give other tourists directions and describe landmarks in a way as to make them think I lived there), I have been feeling retrospective. I have been thinking about my "place" there and here. Obviously, there, I was fulfilling a role - researching, but there was more to it than that. I was thinking - and this is useful for my novel in progress - what makes a place "home"? Answers on a postcard, please.

Anyway, why was I posting today, ah, yes! Award winning short fiction writer, reviewer (to name a few credentials) and blogger extraordinaire (extraordinaire here is defined as "how does she do all of that?"), Tania Hershman very kindly asked me to write a guest blog for her series on "Writing and Place", and you can read it here.