Tag Archives: fiction

Reads of the Day: Writing and Working

There have been a bunch of articles the last few days that I’ve been waiting to read, but due to other commitments haven’t got round to. Finally I have caught up and I see a trend. The following are links that lead to musings on writing, so if you’re not that way inclined, tough luck.

“It’s because it’s hard work a lot of the time, and when it gets hard it’s never more important to stick with it, and good writers know this.” — This speaks right to me, seeing as I am, generally, a very grumpy kind of guy.

“And the shorter format, writers say, is a good fit for the small screens that people are increasingly using to read.” — Just when I start to make serious headway on short form, too.

“So even if short story collections were enjoying a boom in sales at the moment, there’s no reason — or at least no reason the Times’ piece presents — to conclude that digital publishing has played any role in that (nonexistent) phenomenon.” — Oh, a response.

“And yes, we can put a lot of the blame on the skewed priorities of publishers and ask why they don’t hold the written word as sacred.” — Freelancing is the reality; make it a living.

“Unfortunately, my mind is neither slow nor steady; it is erratic, sometimes bursting, sometimes dormant.” — I am SO this way inclined.

“‘Well, I’ll tell you a story,’ the fisherman said. And then he proceeded to do quite the opposite.” — On injecting story into non-fiction.

 

And finally, a little news piece on working in the CREATIVE arts in Australia.

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Friday Fiction: Afraid of Flying

The prompt I used for this piece insisted on my first flying experience. I, however, decided to explore another angle of the flying experience: One’s first fall:

We were over the Northern Territory when it happened. Almost over the water. It had been such a peaceful flight—no children, and plenty of spare seats to stretch out over. I think I was drinking my third or fourth scotch and dry. All I remember is taking a sip and choking as the cabin blew apart.

I suppose it’s lucky there were so few people on the flight. A red eye trip to Singapore to pick up more passengers before heading onwards to Europe. I’d done it dozens of times before. Going overseas was nothing. I know so many people who never leave Australia, except maybe to go to New Zealand or Tasmania, and they don’t count. It had become such a droll experience.

I remember standing in the line to board and feeling entirely nonchalant and seeing the nervous chattiness of the people around me. Families and lovers all moving closer together as if they could see their impending doom, or at least feel it. Humans are instinctive like that.

It’s a good thing we are or I wouldn’t have survived and I’d be just another body under mounds of fuselage and the search crews wouldn’t find me for days and my family would be holding on to hope only to be even more disappointed. As it is it’s like I’m the second coming of Jesus, a miracle. I just grabbed on to whatever was closest at the time and didn’t let go.

It’s isn’t true, that whole time-slowing, or life-flashing. No, everything happens very quickly and you barely have time to take notice of anything before it’s all over. One minute we’re all quite happy, the next there is the howling of the wind and I’m flying. Truly flying, no strings attached. I must have blacked out at some stage, but for the briefest of moments I can recall falling. Like Icarus, I had too much confidence in the contraption that carried me.

No one can explain the exact physics of how I survived. The best anyone can come up with is that the shock of impact was nullified by whatever plane materials were between me and the building I hit. The family that lived in said building was killed so that I may survive. I really don’t think it was worth it.

Now I’m in hospital, with a couple of broken bones and a collapsed lung, but altogether rather fine. The only survivor. It’s times like this you want to believe in a God, or that you lived for a higher purpose. But I’m not so easily fooled.

I went for a flight, it crashed, and I survived. That’s it, there isn’t any more.

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Friday Fiction: Bit of Horror

It’s been far, far too long between blog posts. The three or so weeks before Christmas were crazy at work: Typical busy period compounded with a severe lackof staff. Barely had a day off, and as a result there was little willpower left with which to write.

But now Christmas is over and I can get back into the swing of things. I’ve been maintaining my Writer’s Devotional and keeping up with The List. I have also started researching my virtual communities book again, and should get back to my novel in the New Year.

To the writing of the moment, a spooky piece of prose. Enjoy.

I hit the switch, run towards the bed, and jump. I imagine some leviathan’s claw swiping at where my feet were moments before, only to flap uselessly at the air. I have outwitted the beast, again.
Landing hard and bouncing a little, I scramble under the covers, enveloped in darkness and then again in the physicality of my sheets. I am safe for another night. The cupboards are closed, the door ever so slightly ajar, and my stuffed animals in a protective line against whatever evils may assail me in the night.
My eyes flutter closed, which is when I hear it. A constant wickering, an incessant scrabbling in the walls. Or in the roof. Maybe emanating from the cupboards themselves. I draw the covers closer.
The noise continues, slight variations as if some creature is stopping and sniffing the night air, sniffing out fear. They can smell fear, whatever they are. But I can’t help it. Everything I’ve ever dreaded is coming true.
Ever since I was a child I knew this day would come. I thought I was so prepared, had worked out every way to avoid the abyss. Whatever has come will find me, and I will be finished.
But not without me seeing it’s face, not unless I stare it and confront it. That is the least I can submit to.
I gingerly place a foot on the carpeted floor, swoop out from under my bedsheets. Through the darkness  I make my way towards the door. The sound gets louder, and images flash before me, all too terrifying to describe. I am almost paralysed by the possibilities that lie beyond, and I feel as if time stops; I am halted in that blackness, the sliver of light mere inches away, but feeling like miles.
My hand clasps the handle, and I wrench the door open. Light blinds me for a moment, but when my eyes adjust, there is no beast, no hideous monster waiting for me with clacking claws and slavering jaws.
There is only the fan, it’s rotation off, a loose screw nestled at my feet. The noise continues as I slip back into sleep, now a comfort rather than a terror.

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Saturday Review: Selected Poems of Emily Dickinson

I’m not a man who believes in fate, and despite so many examples that would swing lesser folks towards faith, the only time I let the blithering excitement of serendipity touch me is in a bookstore. Such a breakdown of my moral code occurred when I purchased the Selected Poems of Emily Dickinson in my local second-hand hawker. I was casually flicking through titles and picked up the intriguing On the Art of Reading, when this tome of Miss Dickinson’s insights revealed itself.

Old, with some random's signature on the half-title page!

Old, with some random’s signature on the half-title page!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s technically not on The List—I was meant to read the Complete Poems—but when fortune slaps you in the face like that, you take it in both hands and let the warm, fuzzy feeling take over.

It should be noted that I don’t read poetry. The seller even commented that, “It’s good to see people reading poetry.” I felt more than a little guilty. But heck, after the experience, I’m now primed for more. When I can sit shirtless on my deck overlooking St Kilda, glass of Pinot Grigio in one hand, the text in the other, and enjoy the lyrical lilt of a Great, well, who wouldn’t want to keep doing it? All I need is a greasy mo, wayfarers, and a dangling cigarillo to be complete.

On with the words.

Poetry, man. Haven’t touched it since the first semester of my undergrad degree. I tried my hand, learnt the various forms, and promptly forgot  most of it. Never interested me. Now that I’m a little older though, things have changed. Emma is my first excursion since those faithless days.

Emily Dickinson is known as a recluse, and the introduction by Thomas H. Johnson reinforces this. It’s suitably even-handed, a great opener for the poetics to come. On the serendipity theme, the latest issue of the Victorian Writer mag is poetry themed, and I bought Philosophy in the Garden this week, which has a chapter on Dicko (is that blasphemous?). Poetry is the word of the week, it seems.

One thing I took away from my Arts degree is that poetry is usually about simple, everyday things. It’s like clowning, in that it takes something easy and makes it complex. Emily writes about lightning, gardens, and books. Oh, and death. Lots of death, lots of life, the question of immortality rears its head repeatedly. Here’s a great one:

Surgeons must be very careful

When they take the knife.

Underneath their fine incisions

Stirs the culprit, life.

Succinct. Beautiful. Need I say more? Despite this ease of image, Emily sometimes comes across as very haphazard and unconventional. She doesn’t always rhyme, but her use of words is delightful. “Emphatic thumbs,” is one such gem. Here are a bunch more great little stanzas:

Water is taught by thirst,

Land by the oceans passed,

Transport by throe,

Peace by its battles told,

Love by memorial mold,

Birds by the snow.

Fantastic juxtaposition. It also shows Emily’s obsession with certain things, in this case ‘birds’. Birds appear again and again, as well as bees and words like ‘dew’ and ‘Calvary’. When you’re onto something good, I guess…

There is no frigate like a book

To take us lands away,

Nor any coursers like a page

Of prancing poetry.

This travel may the poorest take

Without offence of toll.

How frugal is the chariot

That bears the human soul.

Something that I love, made even more lovely.

A sloop of amber slips away

Upon an ether sea,

And wrecks in peace a purple tar,

The son of ecstasy.

This is interesting because this is the second time I have seen the word ‘ecstasy’, and it’s spelled differently. Also, it sounds great.

Finally, a poem on the theme of serendipity to close.

Faith is a fine invention

When gentlemen can see,

But microscopes are prudent

In an emergency.

Christ, that hits the spot. Which poets do you like, and who would you recommend?

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Friday Fiction: Or Fact?

Fiction and fact go hand-in-hand. It’s a paradox, but they feed each other. Here’s a little story that may be a little personal, but it’s all in the perspective. Read on:

 

Mrs Bovran loved the first day of school. It was particularly enriching because she taught Year 1—the first ‘first’ day. She moved around the classroom, flitting from parent to parent, introducing herself, her smile constant, her eye contact strong, a bee with an over-abundance of flowers. She was in her element.

A few of the youngsters were bawling, wails and tears drowning the whole room in noise. It was always tough, the first day. Her first day had been a nightmare—not the kids, the teachers. It had been hard back then, but she had made it work. For her love of the children.

One little boy seemed quite stalwart when faced with retreating parents. They departed quietly, not a murmur or whimper to be heard from the child. Mrs Bovran marvelled, quite fascinated; had she had been blessed with a strong student?

Time moved on, and eventually all the adults left. It was just her and the kids. The tears had stopped (though there were still a few wet cheeks) and Mrs Bovran proceeded to give the students their first task. She always started with a colouring exercise, as this seemed to be the most comforting activity.

Taking her place at the Desk, she waited for the kids to finish and come to show her their work. One by one they came to have their efforts approved, followed by a new mission.

All except the boy who hadn’t cried.

Mrs Bovran noticed that he wasn’t doing his work, just looking around with a worried look on his face. Perhaps this was his nervousness finally coming out, Mrs Bovran thought. Maybe he wasn’t as strong as she had presumed. Fear had different ways of presenting itself, but Mrs Bovran was happy to help the children overcome it.

She invited the boy up to her desk.

“What’s wrong, Wally?” she asked.

No response. The child shifted nervously, meeting her eyes briefly, but not offering an answer. After a few more attempts she let Wally stand at her desk, in the hopes it would make him feel better.

Poor boy.

Minutes passed, the students lined up past Wally waiting for Mrs Bovran to approve their work.

And then, a noise.

A very loud noise. Mrs Bovran looked up. It sounded like a burst pipe. But then, screams.

The girls in line were screaming; the boys were laughing.

Little Wally had urinated. In his pants. Right there next to Mrs Bovran’s desk.

The teacher sighed, and went to call the cleaners.

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