Wednesday, 25 March 2020

The World at Dawn

I woke up at 4.43am. It's getting to be a regular pattern these days, with Little One and all. I could go back to sleep, and sometimes I do. And other times, I check the time on my phone - and a torrent of world stuff rushes in, too seething, jumbled and anxiety-inducing to ignore. On those days, sleep slips out of reach. It washes away in the flood of stuff, or just retreats into the night. "Sommeil casse" as they say in Mauritius. "My sleep broke". It sounds more lyrical in Kreol/French. Like tiny pieces of sleep crumbling and breaking away until you reach a state of wakefulness. 

I head towards the kitchen. A lizard laughs, languid. Indi-Girl stirs and gives me the once-over, and goes back to sleep. I like to think she's checking to make sure I'm ok. She could just as easily be checking to see why I'm disturbing her sleep. But I'll take my interpretation with a single-shoulder shrug and a smile. 

I make a cup of tea, Through the kitchen windows, the world lightens from night to grey. The sky is overcast this morning, just as it was yesterday. It could be symbolic of the current state of the world, but I push my thoughts in a different direction. The air is lush with birdsong symphony. So many different songs. The more I focus my ears on listening, the more there is to hear. It's quite amazing. Awe-inspiring. I'm grateful that, even though we're in suburbia - you could even call it inner city suburbia - there is birdlife and nature around us. 

I curl on the couch. Sip at my tea. A snippet of time to let my thoughts wander. 

I draw a love heart on my bit of social media sand. I imagine the sun shining on it in the early morning light. And then I stand back and watch as waves run up to wash it away.

Monday, 9 March 2020

Reflections on Home

Over on Twitter, I'm playing along to a daily March indie-writer celebration, called #MarchOfTheWriters, initiated by the very awesome JD Estrada.

The Day 7 prompt was #HomeIs

So. I'm a migrant. I'm a member of a diaspora (probably more than one). If anyone asks, I claim a formal hyphenated identity that includes three places and two hyphens. Roots and routes have been a feature of my life journey, and of the stories I tell about myself. All these things have been part of the reason I wrote a doctoral thesis over an excrutiatingly long period of time (and the doctorate is also the reason I've developed an overly complicated relationship to writing, but that's another post for another time). In short, I've thought about the idea of 'Home' a lot.

I was born in Country A. I left there as a toddler and haven't been back, though I still claim citizenship there. It's not home, but it's my father's home, and my parents' stories come together there, and also, it's my birthright (birth-write?).

I grew up as a child in Country B - the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, my mother's home. It's had a profound influence on me, even though I've not lived there for 3-and-a-bit decades. I still speak the local informal language (increasingly rustily, the further away I get from my childhood) and my current accent is still inflected with the occasional bit of inadvertent French pronunciation born of that Mauritius childhood. I still love the foods and I have a living network of relatives and friends who make my connections loving and real and alive and current. I've been back there for enough short visits to know that I'm a stranger there, that it's not really home, and to not pretend my memories and experiences of long-ago Mauritius somehow have any relevance in today's Mauritius. And yet, my connection to Mauritius has been such an important part of me, that when I was first setting up a Twitter account and was thinking through different name options, one of the ones I thought about was "Ex Tropical Island Girl".

And now, I life in Country C - Australia. My current home. I've lived in three different cities in three different states, on three quite distinct parts of the map. There's the part of Oz where I went to high school and uni. There's the Blue Mountains in Sydney, where I lived and worked until quite recently - and where, when I absently visualise where the shops are, or the places I could go, or what the drive to the airport would look like, my mind still leaps straight to the Blue Mountains and Sydney-based version of those things. Still. Even after more than a year of not living there. And yet, I also know that autumn will be folding its way onto the Blue Mountains by now, in early March. The deciduous trees will be full of leaves starting to change colour. The cold will be creeping in for its six-month visit. Autumn is beautiful and romantic, but I don't like the cold. I put it down to being a child of the tropics. But I knew the region and I knew the place and I put down roots and routes there and buried my puppy-boy, Bodie, along with a bit of my heart there. It was, for the longest time, home.

And now, I live much, much further north of the Blue Mountains, in the sub-tropics. Where summer days and nights are hot and humid. And it's already March and I'm still getting around in short-sleeved tops, and where falling rain doesn't require me to drag on a thick, fur-lined raincoat. Instead, there are Poinciana trees and flowers. There are frangipani flowers which perfume the air. My body knows this tropical climate - of humidity and warm rain. It's so bewilderingly familiar to an Ex Tropical Island Girl. And yet, the city I now live is not familiar. I can't yet visualise wide stretches of travel from one side to another. It's not home yet.

And yet, my family is here. And it is home. Free-floating and built on all the heart-connections.

I wrote an academic paper once about my idea of home; it was for a presentation. I entitled it "Half-and-half-and-half" - to conceptualise my experience of home as something that was mathematically impossible. That it wasn't neat, or easy to quantify, or a neat whole - and that the lived reality of home is many things, many places, many overlaps, many gaps, many connections, many distances, many complexities and contradictions - all at the same time.

Home is where I've put down roots and routes, where I draw bits of my identity, where I leave bits of my heart, the places I've made memories, and my family.

I know my story isn't unique, in the sense that many people have their own similar tales of roots and routes. But this one is mine, and it's my story and I'm proud to keep on writing it.

Sunday, 16 February 2020

The Little Things You Forget




Once upon a time - summer or winter, late lazy sunlight or freezing darkness - this was what used to greet me when I got home from work.

I've forgotten that this used to be a daily thing.

Score one hundred for those daily blogs or tweets or drawing pad or diary entries which itemise all the little things that would otherwise be lost forever. Because, one day and sooner than you might think, they become precious memories.

To my Bodie-Boy, running joyful and free in his blue nebula, and to my Indi-Girl, who would follow me (almost) anywhere, I love you.


Tuesday, 4 February 2020

I Have Another Blog + A Re-Post About A Story I wrote

Belated Announcement: I have another blog!

Well, it's a bit more than another blog. It's another blog on an actual, proper, website that I created. It's called reeimaginedworlds.com and it's my official publishing site for my Falling into the Five Senses Anthology.

I'm slowly blogging on there, as well as here (trying to keep that New Year Resolution thing about blogging more regularly). The reeimaginedworlds.com blog is - obviously - for antho and any other book/project news. Dodo Au Go-Go is still my blog-about-anything-I-want space.

I wrote a piece recently for reeimaginedworlds.com, but thought it applied quite nicely here too. So, I'm doubling up! (I won't do this too often - promise!) It's a reflection on my writing process for one of my fave stories in the anthology.

Happy reading! :-)

--------

It's subjective, I know. But my most favourite of all my five stories in the Falling into the Five Senses anthology is 'The Diamond Taster'.

It is, obviously, my story about taste, or rather, the sense of taste. Originally, I was stumbling my way something very different. A much more orthodox story that I can't even really remember any more. I know it was going to feature my favourite spice cardamom in some way - and I know this because I couldn't find my jar of cardamom and had to buy another one.

In the end, the new jar of cardamom wasn't needed for my 'taste' story. Because I picked my copy of Neil Gaiman's View from the Cheap Seats. It is a collection of his non-fiction writings - his introductions, prefaces, reflections, papers presented, thank you speeches and anecdotes - about other authors, about comic books, interviews, writing and other things. I dip into this book frequently. Pick it up, pick up a random page and read. It will always be interesting.

For my 'taste' story, it also proved to be inspiring. Again, I can't remember exactly what I read in View from the Cheap Seats. I honestly don't think it was anything in particular. I think I was just inspired by the vibe - by how effortlessly and magically Gaiman seems to wield words. I was inspired to turn my back on a plodding idea and to find something magical, bold, different.

I started with the words which are still near the start The Diamond Taster.

Facts, rumours and outright fictions followed Mr Glass like the magnificent tails of sparks and lights attached to the giant clockwork peacocks in Hyde Park – bright, fast and ever-changing.

It was said that he travelled to London on the airship, Regine Roua, (first-class, of course) from Prague (via Berlin and Paris); that he travelled light, with only one carpet bag with a design of tessellated geometric flowers in black and white; that he spoke the languages of the countries he was in; that he carried a cane which held a compass; and that he wore a traveller’s cape the colour of dried blood. These can be accepted as essentially factual statements.


There were other, more colourful reports about his immediate actions upon arrival. He traversed London via an unauthorised single-person gyro-copter. He dined on bowlfuls of eels and artichokes and drank only Astigone’s Absinthe Elixirs. He booked out the entire top floor of Abbess Ermentrude’s Turquoise Salon for days at a time. He garrotted numerous (the number kept increasing) nameless persons in back alleys. These reports remained unconfirmed.


I had no idea what the story was going to be about, or where the story would go. Even my style is different - flippant. It had to be flippant in tone otherwise it would slide into earnestness and that would kill any progress right there.

I don't know why, but I started slipping in hints of steampunk. A little sliver of magic glowed beneath my fingertips. Grab the magic (but do it flippantly). Did I know much about anything steampunky? Nope. But it felt right. Keep going. I gave Mr Glass, Diamond Taster, hints of a most wonderful back story, that I want to come back to and explore more one day.

I built a moment in time in a story, in a flippant-unlike-me style I loved. Now I just needed to turn it into a story.

I struggled.

I couldn't just describe the scenes in the moment in the story. I needed something like a climax. Or an ending. I re-wrote the beginning. Several times. I chucked it aside. This was a fun side-writing inspiration-diven thing, and I really liked it, but it wasn't a story. I re-dipped into View from the Cheap Seats. Again, whatever piece I landed on convinced me to keep going. Magic. Find magic. Make Magic. It wasn't going anywhere on the screen. I started scribbling on paper. Did I need to include a snippet of his childhood? Ye-es. Did I want to? Ye-es. Was it necessary to building a full story. I don't know. Did it go at the beginning? I. Don't. Know. Did it need someone else? Ye-es. Where and when should they come into the story? Dunno. Ooh, I liked this new character. Keep it, but where? And how? Did I need to start with their backstory? OMG, I DON'T KNOW I DON'T KNOW I DON'T KNOW.

I persevered.

I remember when I hit the thing that made the story become a story with an ending. I was in the kitchen perched on the edge of a chair, scribbling on a hard copy on my knees. (No sitting formally at the screen. That would kill the flippancy). I remember how I punched the air with a delighted grin.

I had my ending. I could now re-work the beginning and slip in the bits and moments to get my ending just right. I knew which backstory bits to keep and which ones couldn't stay. I slipped into attempts at pretty descriptions of the backdrop.

In many ways, the story is the start of a story. But I love that about it too.

It is the one story I will unashamedly say I'm very proud of (modesty be damned!). It started and stayed so far away from my usual way of writing that it could so easily have been left to wither far from home. Instead, I found magic in it!

If you want to read it - and all the other awesome stories in the anthology - you can grab it here.

Friday, 31 January 2020

The Swamp of Lost Words

It's amazing how difficult I find some days to tweet something. Or even anything.

It used to be easy to bash out something and send it flying into the tweetosphere. Try and say something witty or pithy (or try to not pith people off) and have an interesting convo or two. But now... now, I find myself staring at my feed, wondering what on earth to say that might be of interest to anyone.

Sure, I could plug my antho. But people get annoyed (me included) if all you have to say for yourself is "buy-my-book-buy-my-book".

These days, I keep checking my timeline with trepidation, worried that I'm just retweeting stuff rather than saying stuff. Yes, I'm retweeting stuff that's of interest to me, but they're still just retweets, rather than my own words. A timeline filled with retweets is something else that annoys me. I've previously snarkily moaned that people should use their own words on their timelines! And yet, what do I do when my own words seem to be asphyxiating in the ether?

Even my favourite twitter stand-by - the hashtag-inspired microfiction writing games (especially my super-fave, FridayPhrases) - isn't inspiring me at the moment. I'm not sure why.

I guess I'll keep plodding through the Swamp of Lost Words in the hopes of stumbling my way back into an inspiring light or two of words.

And it doesn't matter whether the lights are ghosts, will-o'-the-wisps, faeries or fireflies of words, they're all lights and they all inspire and they're all out there somewhere.

I'll keep looking.

Saturday, 4 January 2020

New and Old Pages

I was gifted a lovely new notebook for Christmas. It is beautiful and pristine and so exquisite I'm quite petrified of using it.


But on the plus side, the new notebook has made me feel that it's ok to finally start using another beautiful notebook - the larger one with the carnelian stone was also a Christmas gift from a mere four years ago!


Actually, four years ago, I received both of these lovely notebooks.

And I'm proud to say I did use the littler one on the left straight away. It took me two years to fill up, but I used it with words I'm proud of.

(One of the things that always happens with me and lovely new notebooks is that, despite my best intentions, the notebook invariably degenerates into a half-hearted and splotchy repository of half-baked ideas that are usually, earnestly over-plotted. The idea usually never goes anywhere, and I kill the notebook's mojo.)

But that didn't happen with this notebook. I filled it with, of all things, my tweets. Some of my tweets that I'm proudest of are in here. It sounds odd - to be writing tweets into a notebook. But there you have it. My favourite tweety compositions are in there: micro-fictions, mood pieces, snippets of magical unrealities. These are pieces I would have to travel a long way down my Twitter timeline to ever find again, assuming I could remember they existed. But in this notebook, I have them at my fingertips, and they bring a world of memories, moods and moments with them.

I filled up the littler notebook shortly before my Little One arrived and it's been sitting on top of its companion notebook ever since, waiting to hand over the baton. And now, with the arrival of the new notebook, I have no more excuses.

So I thought I would start the new notebook with some new year resolutions, seeing as it's 2020 and a new year, new decade, new pages and all that.

Then I realised I'd done the same thing in the littler notebook, four years ago. Here are my resolutions from four years ago:
  • self-publish something
  • write one piece per week on my blog
  • read at least one classic this year
  • do yoga
  • wear less black
  • do something good with my photos
And you know what? These are still all things on my to-do and aspire-to-do list! I laughed when I saw the list sitting there, and yes, the laughter may have had a slightly manic edge to it. 

Ok, I've gotten one thing self-published since I first made that list, but there are more projects I've got lined up in my head. So I'm just going to go ahead and update my resolution list slightly and see how it goes:
  • self-publish the next thing
  • write one piece per fortnight on this blog (or on my self-publishing blog) 
  • read at least one book by an author I admire
  • do yoga/get healthier with eating and exercise
  • wear less black
  • do something good with my photos
They're not new, but they're still lovely and enticing goals for the year and I'm looking forward to going in pursuit of them. 

Wishing you joy and laughter as you head in search of your own goals and dreams in 2020.

I wish you all joy and success in chasing down your goals too.


Thursday, 26 December 2019

It's been a while

There's been a gap of some twenty months since I last wrote anything here.

Basically, as you can see by my previous 2-3 posts, I lost my puppy-boy, Bodie. I grieved, cried, wrote down every single blessed memory of him I had, and cried some more.

In-between, life, love and light gathered.

Our much-longed-for Little One arrived. Bodie is our sky-angel, and Indi, his sister, is our earth-angel. We're a family of four. In my mind, we'll always be a family of five.

Then, in quick succession: I took a new job, we made a giant move interstate and we moved from the four-season climate of the Blue Mountains in New South Wales (emphasis on the freezing-cold bit of the four seasons) to the tropical north. Brisbane, Queensland, where heat, humidity, frangipanis, poincianas and very mild winters reign. For the past year-and-a-bit, we've been building new roots - as you do when you start making the unfamiliar everyday familiar - so you can live in it with some comfort.

One of the big things I brought north with me started life 3-4 years ago. It's an anthology born of an online collaboration with three fabulous writers I met on the Twitter writing community. It's called Falling into the Five Senses and the stories are themed, appropriately enough, around the five senses. We each wrote five stories on each one of the five senses. I wasn't sure I would ever get it finished but I did, and it's now in the big wide world. Obligatory links: Amazon and the antho's website.

The words haven't flowed fast lately, but pre-empting new year resolutions and such, my aim is to find my words a bit more often and a bit more easily.

I'll see how I go.


ReeD