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!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Are you in the mood?

Look at the two images accompanying this posting? They were both taken in Cambridge in the recent big freeze at slightly different times on the same day. However, what sort of different atmosphere or mood does each evoke? For me one is warm and golden, while the other definitely has a touch of the Jackson Pollock's! (This is an Australian slang reference to the painting Blue Poles by the artist Jackson Pollock, purchased by the Australian National Gallery at great expense and causing much controversy a few years ago. I think you can see the connection.)

What does each image say to you?

So if, as Martin Gray in The Dictionary of Literary Terms, says: “Mood is a term used synonymously with atmosphere to indicate in a literary work the prevailing feeling or frame of mind, especially at the start of a play, poem, or novel, creating a sense of expectation about what is to follow.”, as writers, how do we achieve the same mood in prose as these images convey?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Is truth stranger than fiction?

I have just been to the opening of a Japanese photography exhibition. What intrigued me as much as the exhibits was one of the invitees, who reminded me of one of the characters in the novel I am writing. In my novel the female protagonist has a rather colourful drill instructor at 'spy camp', who has tattoos all over his body and who is bequeathing his skin to an art gallery when he dies.

I am not sure whether the person who attended the exhibition has tattoos all over his body, but I suspect he does as they were all over his face, interspersed with studs and piercings, his neck and his hands, which were adorned with rather expensive looking rings. He was probably about 50, and really was a very unusual person. I decided to turn him into a character study and took particular note of how he was dressed: fairly normal dark trousers, shirt and jacket with a purple tie, Doc Martins, dark curly hair held in place with a black bandana, a long pony tail of dreadlocks trailing down his back, and a pair of reflective sunglasses. He made frequent trips to the bar and wolfed down the sushi like it was his last meal. I wish I'd had the nerve to go up and talk to him...

However, what else evolved from the evening was that I learnt there is to be a Tattoo & Body Art Expo in Sydney during March, so I thought I might go along - no not to have a tattoo - I mean I'd love to - but I'm a coward and have a low pain threshhold - henna ones are as far as I will go - but to find some more larger than life characters.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Whose point of view?

Yes, as you'll see from this post's accompanying images, it's a flower arranging day. Despite our tutor's modelling, as usual I started off today's arrangement with no particular design in mind (shame on me, I know!), but it usually works for me, as flowers, like us girls' hair, tend to have a mind of their own when it comes to which way they want to go. Want something curly, that lovely leaf you carefully so picked for its curves, will stand up straight; want a flower to turn its head right, it'll twist around to the left, and so on.

Moving on to the point I'm really trying to make, when I'd finished my composition, on a whim I turned the vase to face diagonally instead of square-on and thought: 'Wow! That works too!'. When I got home I took the usual photos of my creative attempts turning the vase this way and that.

So, as with writing, not only can a piece vary depending from whose viewpoint we are writing, but it can also be interpreted differently depending on what angle the reader takes on the work. I was also strongly reminded today of our Advanced Practice tutor's first lecture, when he referred us to different paintings, which all told a different narrative, and which changed or anamorphed and exposed other details depending from what position you viewed the paintings. Holbein's The Ambassadors is a prime example of this. If you're not familiar with this painting, see if you can find the skull depicted in it.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Tread gingerly

Today's posting was going to be a hotch potch of scattered ideas, inspired, no doubt, because today was the first day of term for my flower arranging course this year, which always seems to get my creative juices flowing, and which made me get out my camera for the inevitable photo. As this coming Sunday is Valentine's Day today's arrangement figured roses - not red ones - but the most heavenly-scented pink ones. The yellow spiky-looking bloom on the left, whose flowers are still to come out, is Australian ginger. It too has the most exquisite, heady perfume, closest to it is probably jasmine. So why hasn't someone created a ginger fragrance? I'm sure it would be a winner with both genders - I find its aroma intoxicating and addictive - I couldn't stop sniffing one that was in full bloom in class, much to the amusement of my tutor, and can't wait till mine blossoms.

This elusive scent reminded me of the novel Perfume: Story of a Murderer by Patrick Susskind, so I have chosen to just refer to that work in this posting and will leave the other ideas for future postings. (Keep reading over the next few days!) If you have read this macabre murder novel you will know what an excellent job Susskind did in making the reader experience the different scents he wrote about, to the point where I could certainly smell them. I never saw the film version of the novel, but I do question why someone doesn't come up with the idea of a multisensory film or theatre piece, where the cinema or theatre exposes the audience to different sensations, such as cold, heat, smell... Hmm, maybe those ginger flowers had hallucinogenic properties, like Angels Trumpets...

Monday, February 1, 2010

But we speak the same language, don't we?

Two separate events occurred over the weekend, which led me to think about communication between the English-speaking countries of the world.

The first was when a peer, who was critiquing the extract from my novel, which I am planning to submit for the Advanced Practice Unit of my MA in Professional Writing, remarked that she couldn't understand some of the Australianisms I'd used in this piece of work. So, the dilemma is to find a balance between a prose, which the wider English-speaking community would understand without losing the Australian flavour and setting of this particular piece.

The second event took place at the movies (cinema to some). I went to see the British comedy In the loop with a dinky di Australian friend, who complained that they couldn't understand the Scottish accent and missed out on some of the cultural references.

I realise I can easily move between the two cultures (Australian and British), and, as a bit of a lingist, between a couple of others too. As a languages eductor I aim to bring my students to the point where they can do this too - we call this finding the third place, a zone where you feel comfortable between the two cultures, which may not be the same for everyone. You know which form of language to use, how to behave and what is expected in different situations, but may not feel comfortable taking on board every aspect of the target culture even though you respect and accept it. Some examples, which illustrate this, might be bowing in Japanese culture or visiting a public Japanese bath-house where you are expected to be naked, or to non-Anglos - queueing! These customs wouldn't bother some people but they might others.

So, as writers, how do we bring our readers to that third place?

For a review of the film In the loop, please go to my website