Welcome to my blog!

Why Jacaranda you ask? In case you are reading this the other side of the world and are not sure, Jacaranda is the name of a beautiful tree, which blooms around Oct/Nov, mostly in the Eastern states of Australia. Its flowers are the most exquisite shade of blue-purple, the nearest comparison probably being hyacinth blue, so who could not be inspired to write by such a spiritual colour? When the jacarandas start to blossom, you know it's exam time, but you also know that Christmas is just around the corner. It is said that if a jacaranda flower falls on your head as you walk underneath a tree, good fortune is sure to follow, so guess who did a lot of walking under jacaranda trees! Watch this space for changing images of this lovely tree!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

East meets West, or does it?

Having just spent a few days in snowy Berlin Stadt with my goddaughter's family, I took the opportunity to interview a variety of people about how life had changed since the fall of the Wall. Berlin was one of my old stamping grounds, you could even say, as the song does, 'Ich bleib Berlin meine alte Liebe treu' (I remain true to my old love, Berlin.), so I could relate to what these people were saying about their lives, before, during and/or after the Wall. However, what suprised me was that there was still some tension between the Osties and the Westies. I don't want to quote examples here as the whole experience has inspired me with the idea of writing a feature story or maybe just a collection of stories of a reunified Berlin under a capitalist system and a reunified Viet Nam (another of my old stamping grounds) under a Communist system.

If you would like to add your comments and views, I'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Six degrees of separation

Well, here I am in cold and snowy London. My flight landed bang on time (actually, there was no bang) on Friday 18 December and despite a delay in delivery of luggage there were no other hang ups due to weather. While waiting for the luggage I took the opportunity to go to the loo and banged straight into a fellow who swims at the same beach as I do in Australia.

While listening to some fabulous, free music by Branco Stoysin in the the foyer of the National Theatre, and waiting for the performance of The Habit of Art, I talked to a local and discovered that not only had we both lived in the same street several years ago but that they are a frequent visitor to Australia and enjoy the same beach as both I and my swimming compatriot above do.

Supposed to go on the Eurostar (I am writing that word in a whisper)tomorrow, but have a feeling all will be well.

Please go to my website for a review of The Habit of Art.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Cutting edge genre?

I came across a new genre today - Fictocriticism. Some of you may think "Where has she been?" However, this term struck a real chord with me.

Although challenging to define, in a broad sense Fictocriticism is an experimental genre of writing which, like an essay, tries to make an argument but also tells a story at the same time.It draws attenton to issues which need to be addressed by looking at cultural practices, then using a first person narrator relates how these practices are experienced.

Is this, subsconsciously, what I tried to do when writing the most recent piece for my novel? I used a first person narrator to introduce the male character in my book and to tell his 'story': his experiences growing-up as a Uyghur in China, which naturally touched upon issues of political and religious oppression; his entry to University just before 9/11 and the effects of that incident on him and his people; his goal to study overseas, and not least his perspective on his relationship with a Western girl. Previous to this I had only been writing pieces for the book from the female protagonist's pov. Although this piece still needs a lot of reworking, I have a bubbling of hope that I may be on the right track in choosing to tell his story this way.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Frame breaking

Sometimes I think perhaps I should have dedicated this blog to flower arranging – it does seem to feature a lot - but yesterday’s effort (pictured left) merits a mention.

You may notice that of the three lengths of bamboo, which were sawn off by a particularly lethal implement, one is actually outside the vase. To do this it was necessary to secure the three bamboo pieces together with raffia wire. There was a method in this madness, however, as it not only created a quirky effect but served a valid function, i.e. it stabilised the whole arrangement.

As usual I started to think how this concept could be applied to writing – I mean you can have paintings and digital photos where a part of the picture protrudes outside of the frame for particular effect, such as a golf club in full swing or the head of a cute little puppy. I then came across this article on the net by Lisbeth Rieshøj Pedersen on frame-breaking in the works of the Jewish writer Raymond Federman, whose novels I have read. Experienced writers and critics will be aware of this strategy of frame breaking but I wasn’t or didn’t know it was called that.

Not quite so mental

His slight figure clad in a silver satin suit, long hair topped by a black beanie, Reg Mombassa entertained the eager crowd at my local art gallery with his laconic, larrikin wit, as he flicked through the slide show of his paintings, which are pictured in his newly published biography. Well-loved and remembered as a muso with the rock band ‘Mental as anything’, famous for his designs for the Mambo label and record covers for Johnny Rotten and Crowded House, Reg, who was born as Christopher O’Doherty in New Zealand, is also a renowned artist. His paintings range from:
  • the sublimely ridiculous such as self-portrait with an ice-cream cone on nose – as he said what else would you do with such an item
  • irreverent and often risqué pop art - sometimes mocking the relationship between Australia and New Zealand, the Crown, and making political but very humanist statements, to
  • portraits and fine landscapes.

When he signed his biography for me with his highly unusual signature, he added a quip ‘Stop being naughty!’ which completely floored me.

For a review of his biography, The Mind and Times of Reg Mombassa, written by fellow painter, writer and former literary editor of The Australian, Murray Waldren, please go to my website.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The creative space in between

A rather odd connection between writing and flower arranging happened for me today. The tutor said to leave a space between the two different colours of gladioli. He referred to it as the creative space in between.

It made me think of the pauses in music, which the artistic director of my choir, says are just as important as the notes, if not more so.

However, it also made my brain veer off on a wild tangent to the writing of Michael Reilly, a young Sydney action writer, whose latest book The Five Greatest Warriors has topped the best seller list, even beating New Moon.

Although not the type of author I would usually read, I was introduced to Michael’s books by my brother. The first thing that struck me was Michael’s highly visual style of writing - a tribute, which unbeknown to me then, book reviewers ascribe to his work. What stands out in my mind is the description of a race in Michael’s novel Hover Car Racer. The writing went something like this:



xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx



and so on.

This creative use of space was far more powerful and effective than any piece of dense prose he could have written to describe the race.

To see a review of Michael Reilly’s latest book The Five Greatest Warriors, go to my website.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

How far would you go for love?

Taking a break from the 40 degree heat today, I went to see a Franco Zeffirelli production of Puccini’s Turandot filmed live at the Met in HD. As you may know, the Met has been showing a series of operas since last year throughout cinemas around the world. Cinema goers may be in different time zones but they see each opera as it goes out live. There is a VIP who introduces each opera, and who also interviews the stars and other members of the production team, in between acts. For example, today the person in charge of making severed heads, for operas like Salome, was interviewed. The young Latvian conductor was also interviewed. He said the thing he liked best about Turandot was the fact that Liu, a slave girl, sacrificed her own life to save the man she loved. He felt this act surpassed any heroic feats of war. It actually has echoes of the novel I’m attempting to write where the heroine, a Western girl, is coerced into working for the intelligence services and making sacrifices, to save the man she loves, who is a Uyghur.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The boys are back

Was really going to post this as a review on my website but that still needs a bit more building - well, quite a lot actually.
Last night I went to see a preview of the film, which is the title of this post, at my lovely art deco cinema. It was directed by Australian Scott Hicks, famous, among others films, for 'Shine', and 'Snow falling on cedars', and who was present for a Q&A session after the film.
This film is a must see. It is based on the true life memoirs (can memoirs be anything else but true - yeah I guess so) of Simon Carr, a New Zealander, who was widowed in his 30s, when his second wife died of cancer leaving him with a young son to bring up. He also has a son by his first wife, who both live in England. Don't stop reading now guys - this film has everything: humour, emotion, sport, a bit of fisticuffs,(sorry no sex to speak of) but really is one for the boys as well as the girls. As Scott said he likes stories which draw on family and complex relationships, an undying source of material to which we all, as writers or filmmakers, have access. It also showcases the music of Icelandic band Sigur Ros, who normally refuse to allow their music to be reproduced in any context. However, Scott took the film to Iceland to show them, forewarned by his son that these were "the coolest people on the planet", so in other words don't stuff it up! The band loved the film and agreed to let Scott use their music. The screenplay was set in Australia and filmed in South Australia - Scott's home state, although he now spends most of his time in the US. It is an Australian and BBC co-production, and stars that gorgeous hunk of a British film star Clive Owen, with his just off posh London accent and plenty of close-ups of his deep eyes. The cinematography is a visual feast. One comment by Scott, which really resonated with me, was that he wanted to show emotion without sentimentality, which he certainly achieved. More than can be said for the screen version of the book 'The Time Traveller's Wife'. I was sooooo disappointed with this film - it was pure Hollywood, and although Australian Eric Bana, who played the lead, is good eye candy, there really is only so much of him in the nude a girl can take. What does Hollywood do to our talented actors? They become plasticised and their work becomes souless, cf Nicole Kidman. I remember Eric Bana in the Australian film Romulus my father,a far superior film to The Time Traveller's Wife, as is The Boys are Back.

Click to listen to interviews with Scott Hicks.

If you would like to read more reviews of movies and books, go to my website in a couple of days.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Editing assignments getting you down?

Who likes editing? The answer to that is probably editors! Editing can be the bane of a student writer's life (and I suspect an established writer's life). Having just completed a particularly onerous assignment, where I and my peers were required to edit a book project about the humble apple, I can honestly say this took the prize for being the pits! I never want to see, smell or eat an apple, or anything remotely to do with apples again(oh, except maybe my new I-phone!).
So how do you relax, wind down, come down or whatever after a particularly gruelling and frustrating period of edting, re-writing or just plain writing that didn't go so well? Would love to hear from you!
What works for me?
  • Going for a swim at the beach.
  • Listening to music, and last but certainly not least
  • Going to flower arranging!

  • When I walk in the room and hear my tutor's soothing, calm voice; see, smell and touch the gorgeous blooms and foliage he has chosen for us, not to mention coming out with something half resembling an arrangement, I get a warm, fuzzy feeling and all the tension disappears. If only the writing process were that easy. But do you know what the trickiest bit is? Getting the flower arrangment safely home in the car, or even just into the car, not to mention up the stairs to my flat!

    If you're interested, today's effort (pictured) consists mainly of white and purple-pink orchids, a special type of baby's breath, Albany woolly bush from Western Australia, Philodendron leaves, Leucandron from Argentina (it feels like stroking a pussycat!), Nandina, and I've forgotten the name of the silvery-grey leaves at the front. The professional florists among you may despair, but I feel good!

    Tuesday, November 3, 2009

    Would you take 'supplements' to enhance your creativity?

    While watching a fascinating episode of Insight - described as Australia's leading forum for ideas - on SBS TV this evening (when I should have been doing coursework) about IQ, Emotional Intelligence, the brain and memory, I was both horrified and intrigued to hear that some perfectly healthy people take not just herbal supplements, but medicinal drugs, such as those used in the treatment of Alzheimers, to enhance cognitive ability and memory. One was a young man who wanted to get better grades. So, as a writer, or student writer, how far would you or do you go to enhance your creativity? I'm not talking about recreational drugs (and don't want to hear about those), but herbal or vitamin supplements and medicinal drugs with claims to enhancing creativity. Do such things exist? And if so, is it cheating to take them?

    Thursday, October 29, 2009

    Can the blah on your blog lead to publication?

    Have you seen the film 'Julie and Julia'? Yes, I know it's a bit of a chick flick, but it is based on a true story, which led me to pose the question, 'Can the blah on your blog lead to publication?'. In Julie Powell's case the answer is yes, but why was her blog so successful? I'd welcome your thoughts and views on this. For my part, I think it was because she was passionate about her subject matter - cooking. She also set herself a challenge - to cook all 524 recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 365 days (so you see the countdown gadget has a valid function). Her followers could empathise with the ups and downs of her day, her triumphs and disasters in the kitchen, as well as drool over the mouth watering recipes. Apparently some of the passages in her published book were taken verbatim from her blog as were some comments from her followers.

    To find out more about the film, go to:
    Julie and Julia

    To find out more about the book, go to:
    Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen