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Love is…

Since today is Valentine’s day, I thought I’d take a moment to talk about love.

Love is:

-Singing to the stars and hearing them sing back.

-Attempting to pirouette on a tightrope.

-Savouring time instead of spending it.

-Wrenching your heart out of your throat, coughing it into your hands – a pulsing, bloody mango – then shredding it against a cheese-grater.

-Realising your shadow resides in another person. And your light.

-Skidding down a slope of laughter.

-Letting someone see you splinter and fray.

-Feeling butter-soaked in warmth.

-Stumbling, falling, getting up again.

-Who the hell knows?


Please comment and share what love is to you!

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The beginning of a new year always prompts me to think about what I want to accomplish. I usually realise that I lost my list of resolutions from the previous year, or achieved a couple of my goals but forgot about the rest.

Yesterday I caught up with one of my friends, and we talked about writing an ULTIMATE LIST OF (IM)POSSIBLE DREAMS. One that includes goals not just for this year, but for your whole life. Too often we tell ourselves that the things we want the most are out of reach. I’m asking you to let yourself think of everything you truly want, and then write it all down.

Yes, I realise that completing a draft of this list may take a while. That’s okay.

But only include goals you really want to accomplish. Not the things someone else has told you you should want. Or the things that you want right in this second (‘To eat a dozen doughnuts!’) – that you probably won’t want in the next minute. Don’t write down passing whims; write down recurring dreams you can’t shake even when you’ve been told to, and record the little things that are big to you. Use the ULTIMATE LIST OF (IM)POSSIBLE DREAMS to savour moments, celebrate victories, and remember what you’re chasing.

I’m not saying that we should all expect to become movie-stars or billionaires, or even that a lot of people would want to. I just think it’s good to be honest with yourself about what you want. That way, you can prioritise and try to make some of those hazy fictions you’ve imagined for yourself into realities.

Here are a few examples of goals on my list:15682726_10154824814752152_786379100_n

  • Learn how to cook vegetarian lasagne.
  • See a whale.
  • See Uluru in person.
  • Create a secret passageway in my home.
  • Play the role of Mercutio in a stage production.

I’ve already done the first two (years ago), but they’re on the list because they were life goals that mattered to me. I still cook lasagne, and now I should add something to the list like ‘Learn how to make cannelloni by myself!’, because that would also give me a sense of satisfaction. (Okay, I like Italian food.)

I’ve seen Beluga and Humpback whales, and I love them. Whales are magnificent. They fill me with awe. If you haven’t seen one yet, please consider adding it to your list.

As for the others… Well, I’ve wanted to see Uluru for a jolly long time, and it’s really up to me to save some money and make it happen. I don’t want to climb Uluru – I know it’s sacred to the Aborigines – I just want to see it. Stand in front of the great beating heart of Australia. Breathe in desert air and red rock. Look up at the endless summer sky out in the middle of my country.

Now, this is my list – not yours. It would be easy to shoot down the things on my list. ‘You can see sky anywhere; look out the window!’. That’s what I can imagine some people saying. When I went to London with my sister, our mutual friend expressed a lack of interest in the London Eye and told us drolly that it was ‘just a big Ferris wheel’. This comment amused me, but I also felt compelled to point out that the fete-style attraction held a certain appeal for a lot of other people, if not for him.

But back to the piece of my list: who doesn’t want a secret passageway? I mean, come on. Come on. I could feel like one of The Three Investigators! I could host Murder Mystery nights!

It would be amazing.

Oh, and as for Mercutio? Well, this is one dream that I accept may not become a reality. I do understand that Mercutio is traditionally played by a man. But I think casting a woman would be an interesting reinterpretation, especially considering the theory some hold about Mercutio’s sexuality. If the director decides that Mercutio is secretly in love with Romeo, then how might that part be explored by a woman? And what kind of sharp contrasts could be drawn between Romeo’s best friend and Juliet, if Mercutio was female?


Anyway, I’m going to include aspirations like ‘Play the part of Mercutio’, even if the chance of it coming to pass seems downright ridiculous or at least improbable. After all, this is my ULTIMATE LIST OF (IM)POSSIBLE DREAMS – and I want the freedom to think big.

I don’t expect everything I want to happen and I know that plenty of goals are, at least in part, dependent on other people. But I will work for the things that matter most to me and try to put myself in a position to get what I want… and I’ll remind myself to enjoy the journey. Because spending time with family and friends and doing things like making lasagne and daydreaming all counts.

So, if you want, make your own ULTIMATE LIST OF (IM)POSSIBLE DREAMS. If you tell anyone about it, try to say the whole title in caps – the way I’ve typed it. 😛 Doing so will remind you that whatever made the list is capital-letter important to you. (And talking at capital-letter volume has the added bonus of baffling or annoying whoever you’re talking to!) 😉

Oh, and one more thing. I’ve always wanted to write stories and get them published. So, knowing that later this year I will have a book in bookshops makes my heart swell.

My narrative, The Whirlpool, has been accepted for publication by Wombat Books. Working with Rochelle Manners and Emily Lighezzolo has been a pleasure, and I love the book’s beautiful illustrations by Helene Magisson. My story has become a tangible thing. I’ll let you know when it’s available.

Most dreams aren’t impossible. If you reach, sometimes dreams come true.



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Making Music Your Muse

I think songs are kind of like flash fiction: they capture and suspend a moment, story or emotion in a few minutes. Music helps with my writing sometimes because it can be a little like playing dress-ups: slipping into another person’s thoughts, or trying on different perspectives.

While I’m on a music-is-might kick, I want to discuss ‘Push’ by Matchbox Twenty. Those guys did a hell of a job because that song makes me ache for the fictional victim and aggressor. Vulnerable, angsty lyrics coupled with a raw sound. ‘I’m a little bit rusty…’ Well, that’s genius.

I don’t think ‘Push’ is suggesting that anger is the answer to any problems. Far from it. But it helps the willing listener understand the mindset of someone who has felt pushed around by life and wants to push back. If anything, to me this song suggests that we should be careful not to punish the people in our lives for personal baggage.

The great thing about a song is that it’s open to interpretation. If you don’t want to reconcile ‘Push’ with abuse, it can mean something else to you. Who hasn’t wondered whether or not they measure up to their own standards, or someone else’s? Who hasn’t felt doubt or insecurity, or like they’d like to shine despite their damage?

I could probably keep ranting and analyse this four-minute song for an hour, but I don’t want to take you (or your attention) for granted. 😉 So right, yes, back to my main point: songs can really help provide inspiration for writing stories because they can help you get in a particular mood for a given scene, or assist in developing characters. I like to listen to music while I think about a story, but rarely play it while I’m actually writing, because then I get distracted. I don’t want to have someone else’s lyrics in mind when I’m trying to listen to my characters. I know other people work differently, but I just thought I’d share what works for me. Please feel free to comment about your favourite song, what it means to you, or how you use music for your writing!

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How To Write Ugly

Some writing aches with beauty and makes you feel like another person has distilled a truth of the universe that part of you had always known, but never fully articulated.

Some writing causes you to reflect and discover new aspects of yourself: the true soul of your soul.

Stories may awaken a sense of nostalgia in you, and leave you to ponder life and all of its impossible possibilities. Things that were once options but no longer are. Some writing reads like a half-sketched map of adventures not taken. Characters may live out a thousand versions of your life, had you chosen differently, or motivate you to reconsider your choices now.

Stories can be empowering, awe-inspiring, life-changing. I truly believe that.

And some writing is ugly. Some is supposed to be. Because writing reflects the human experience, and humans inevitably experience pain, misery and suffering. (This blog is not supposed to be a major downer, by the way, I’m just getting real here.) The other stuff is real, too. Absolutely. Love, joy, kindness and hope exist. Love is what makes living worthwhile. There are glorious moments where you realise that another person in this vast and too small universe understands the same thing you do; where kindness prevails, and magic shines in the everyday. We can’t lose sight of all the good, but failing to represent the grime of life in narrative form would be a mistake.

Which brings me back to writing ugly. I once told a writer friend that his story was too eloquent. ‘What’s wrong with it?’ he asked. I told him that he’d used a beautiful style for a moment that wasn’t beautiful. And there is a place for prose like Henry James’, but I thought this particular scene deserved raw emotion. My advice was to stop trying as hard and let the action play out. If a scene is brutal, then make me feel whiplashed. Use the language your story demands. Use words like ‘crush’, ‘ooze’, ‘smash’ and ‘grit’. Experiment with choppy sentences, blunt sounds. Subtlety can be wonderful, but certain situations call for a sledgehammering. So, bash me over the head with words. Try not to get caught up in the kind of writing that will make you feel consumed by a fatalistic view of the world, but give me something authentic. Characters are allowed to panic, to get scared or angry, and emotionally and physically beaten up. All of that’s okay, but it is nice to watch them fight, and will them to succeed, and to cheer when they do.

So, if you wanna give it a go, write ugly. It’ll make the light in your stories shine brighter.

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I felt just like Alice, plunging down the rabbit-hole.

The trapdoor beneath my feet flew open, and I fell. Water sprayed into my face and tickled my legs, and the tunnel arced and twisted, carrying me. The rounded walls stretched on, glowing with an earthy, red light. Where would this journey end?

Then the light grew brighter, whiter, and the tunnel spat me out into a body of blue water. Scrambling to my feet, I felt waves of adrenaline pound my heart. I waded out of the shallows, sunlight splashing onto my skin.

Well, this piece is my attempt at capturing an experience I recently had at a water-park. My friends and I conquered this place by trying every slide that was open…even the scary, we’ll-drop-you-through-a-trapdoor-into-a-mysterious-twisty-tube one! The brief free-fall was truly exhilarating. I really did feel like Alice.

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The Perfect Place To Write

You know how people talk about the ideal place to write? As though inspiration will surely hit if you sit atop a tranquil mountain, away from the pull of home and work, listening only to your characters’ voices and the gentle breeze?

Well, it doesn’t work like that. Not for me, anyway.

This morning I got up early(ish) and climbed a mountain with my sister and some friends. Well, I say ‘climbed’…there was some steep walking in places. Our conquest for the day was technically a mountain, but it’s more like a big hill. Anyway, standing at the summit(?) offered me a pretty view, but not a drop of inspiration. In Stephen King’s book On Writing, he describes routine as paramount to making progress with a story, and I’ve found this to be true with my own work. Inspiration is more likely to wash over me when I’m sitting in my usual spot at my computer than when I’m in a new setting, however beautiful it is. In fact, sometimes I find it’s best to get some writing done in a familiarly dull location. If I’m bored by my environment then I will want to be transported, and my mind will search for ways to breathe colour and magic into a story.

So, if you’re wondering about where to write, maybe look for a place that isn’t too stimulating. But don’t become a hermit, either. Experiences of all sorts can factor into your stories, and give you details to make them vivid. I guess I’m really talking about timing. While I’m on a mountain: zero inspiration. But who knows? Now I’m trapped in my room – and waiting for inspiration to come – maybe my ideas will be influenced by some echo from this morning’s adventure. The cursor in my Word document blinks at me. Time to spill out some words. Wish me luck!