FETISH FRIDAY: JULIET MARILLIER

I’m running a new series of guest posts throughout 2015: Fetish Friday. Don’t get all sweaty in the pants—I’m going back to an older definition of the word, and asking artists to show us something that helps them with the ritual of creation, some part of their surroundings—physical or mental—that eases the path into the creative state, whether it be a location, a piece of music, person, picture, a doohickey, whatnot, curio or ornament without which the creative process would be a whole lot more difficult.


Today we welcome one of the most successful speculative fiction authors to come out of Western Australia, and one of my personal inspirations– the talented, personable, critically acclaimed, and all round brilliant Juliet Marillier:





Somewhere in my cluttered workspace can be found a rather odd pair of figures. If there’s any kind of fetish associated with my writing routine, it’s those two. Yoda and Cow. When my grandchildren visit, Yoda gets to use the Force on Cow, who levitates gently. But most of the time the two buddies just hang out, watching me attempt to write.

When and where did this unusual friendship begin, and why is it important to my creative effort? Well, the story started long, long ago when I wasn’t a full-time writer but a manager in a Commonwealth government department that shall remain nameless. At a certain point the powers that be decided to move the department out of its centrally located building in order to save money. My team was the last one left in the old building, working on for months while other floors and other parts of our floor emptied out around us and other staff left their junk behind.

You can see where this is going, can’t you? At last my team was up for the big move. Not only did we need to sort and pack all our own stuff, we had to dispose of all the left-behind material as well. In a rush. A skip was brought in and a mountain of objects soon filled it – not only rubbish but coffee mugs, stationery items, framed prints, material accumulated by a whole floor of office workers over quite a few years. The waste was horrendous.

As boss, I was frantically busy at this point and stressed out of my mind, but I did notice when Yoda appeared in the skip, discarded when his previous human cleared her desk. Perhaps Yoda used the Force to summon me, recognising me as someone who would know he was no mere plastic figurine. Not long after I rescued Yoda I found Cow in a wastepaper bin. The two have been with me for around 14 years now. Cow is made of some weird kind of rubber and her body has perilous structural cracks. Without Yoda to keep her strong she would have fallen apart long ago. Without Cow’s tranquil presence, Yoda would be profoundly lonely. Together they make a formidable team.

I can’t look up from my writing now without meeting their combined gaze. Jointly, they remind me of the time when I was not yet fortunate enough to write novels for a living. The time when my day job was almost unbearably stressful. I think Yoda and Cow are as happy as I am that we left that workplace for ever.

They keep me writing. Yoda is supportive but always challenging. ‘More focussed you must be,’ he tells me. ‘Write better you can.’ By contrast, there is a sweet innocence in Cow’s expression. ‘What a lovely story!’ she moos. ‘I can’t wait to read the next chapter!’

 
Juliet’s Marillier’s novels combine historical fiction, folkloric fantasy, romance and family drama. The strong elements of history and folklore in her work reflect her lifelong interest in both fields. However, her stories focus strongly on human relationships and the personal journeys of the characters. Juliet is a member of the druid order OBOD (The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids) and her spiritual values are often reflected in her storytelling – the human characters’ relationship with the natural world plays a significant part.
As well as her books for adult readers, Juliet has written three novels for young adults and has contributed short fiction to several anthologies. She is a regular contributor to genre writing blog Writer Unboxed.


 
Are you a creative artist? Fancy joining in and letting us know about that special item, object, location or cosmic state of being at the heart of your creative process? There’s always room for another lunatic in the asylum: email me and make your most excited Horshack noise. 

FETISH FRIDAY: GILLIAN POLACK

I’m running a new series of guest posts throughout 2015: Fetish Friday. Don’t get all sweaty in the pants—I’m going back to an older definition of the word, and asking artists to show us something that helps them with the ritual of creation, some part of their surroundings—physical or mental—that eases the path into the creative state, whether it be a location, a piece of music, person, picture, a doohickey, whatnot, curio or ornament without which the creative process would be a whole lot more difficult.

Today we welcome author and academic, Doctor Gillian Polack:

When Lee asked me about a post, I was full of ideas. They were practical and sensible ideas, for I am a practical and sensible person. I use butchers’ paper on the backs of doors to plan my fiction, for instance. This is a practical and sensible thing to do. I only do it for some novels, however, for not all of them require protection against demon infestation through the ritual application of arcane writing on portals. Currently, I’m writing something shorter and so all the paper on my doors are polite lists encouraging me to do work. Currently my flat is demon-infested. Not that this is relevant to this post, but it means that objects develop a life of their own.



I surround myself with small bits of paper in the hope that they will turn into fiction, too. They don’t. They turn into shopping lists. They turn into rude notes to myself. They turn into draft incantations against demon manifestations. They even turn into academic papers. My fiction, however, remains sublimely independent of small scraps of paper. Except that, like most things around me, this can change. I used small scraps of paper to move the history side of me to the fiction side of me for Langue[dot]doc 1305. I had a couple of hundred scraps containing key bits of detail (verified, awesome and not related at all to demon infestations, except one, where I’d found evidence that my time travellers may well have been considered as demonic by some upstanding citizens) and I put them in order the way I would for non-fiction and they magically transformed into telling detail in the novel and then equally magically disappeared into the recycling.
I like pens. I have so many pens it isn’t funny. I need at least three for each pile of scrap paper. Even if I don’t use them, I’m happy to have them round. I love their variety and the fact that they create colonies and occasionally mutate.
I use them for note taking and for editing, but not for writing. They’re part of my security blanket. They don’t write my novels, though. A computer is my main tool, and I can write anywhere. Right now, in fact, I’m writing during my evening break, which happens to be Sleepy Hollow. My viewing of choice explains why this post is haunted.
Music doesn’t work at all. Ever. Music makes me get up and dance, which is wonderful and stops my RSI getting worse, but it doesn’t get me writing. Except when it does.The Art of Effective Dreaming is full of folk songs and I’m positive that the text changes tone when I changed tunes. I’m also positive I drove two sets of neighbours to find new places to live simply by listening to my astonishing singing.
I do have systems, I do. I have comfort-objects and routines. The rub is that every novel has its own system. Ms Cellophane was partly influenced by a plague of ants, and also by a mirror I possess that was safely in my storeroom. Both ants and mirror were invoked, rather than being part of what I regularly do, which explains their quality in the novel.
So what do I do that’s not improvisational? What actually grounds me when I write?



I often start with a notebook to get the feel for a given novel into my mind and to keep it there. Because I write over a long period and other things keep intervening, I need a way to regain the mood of each novel. Other methods fail reliably. At one stage I tried collecting antiques, but I’m pretty positive this was just an excuse to collect antiques for a week (I ran out of money before I ran out of the desire for gilt cups), for that novel was never written. So I don’t buy antiques, but I do establish a memory keepsake, in the form of a notebook and I pretend to plan the novel in it. Instead of planning, what I do is mark the space with some words and imprint it on my mind that this is the mental space for that novel and this is the feel of that novel. For the tone and feel of my story, I need something I can pick up and that contains an infused memory. And, let me admit, I love notebooks.
After I’ve written a novel and contracted it, I use something to keep me on the straight and narrow: daruma dolls. My Japanese friends introduced them to me about the same time they introduced me to some of the rhymes and songs I used in The Art of Effective Dreaming, the ones that drove my neighbours away.



For every book contract I sign, I fill in one eye on a doll. For every published book, I fill in the other. Several dolls currently inhabit a shelf near my TV and each time I look they’re in a different position. The pink doll and the small red one are back to back right now, refusing to talk. The pink one thinks it’s superior, because its book is already out.
The most difficult bits of the whole writing process (besides sagging middles, which are something else entirely) are beginning the novel – moving from the props to the keyboard – and getting through the publishing process. I envy the beauty of others’ inspirational objects, but for me, the beginning and end are where I need..something. It’s like setting the table for a dinner party and washing the dishes after: they make the dinner party into a meal. Paper, pens, notebooks and daruma dolls, and the novel has the support it needs.


Gillian Polack is a writer, editor, historian and critic. Her most recent novels are The Art of Effective Dreaming (Satalyte, 2015), Langue[dot]doc 1305 (Satalyte, 2014) and Ms Cellophane (Momentum, 2012). Ms Cellophane (then called Life Through Cellophane) was shortlisted for a Ditmar. Her next book is non-fiction (The Middle Ages Unlocked, co-authored with Katrin Kania, Amberley). She has edited two anthologies and has seventen short stories published. One of her stories won a Victorian Ministry of the Arts award and three more have been listed as recommended reading in the international lists of world’s best fantasy and science fiction short stories. 







Are you a creative artist? Fancy joining in and letting us know about that special item, object, location or cosmic state of being at the heart of your creative process? There’s always room for another lunatic in the asylum: email me and make your most excited Horshack noise. 

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY GETS IT FROM ABBIE SOMEONE

Pretty much a complete rip from a classic Gahan Wilson cartoon, this is still one of my favourite thumbnails. It’s not so much the obvious grand guignol of the central gag that gets me when I look at it now, but the expression on the face of the mad doctor behind his counter– there’s such a little boy “Oh, please don’t catch us out” look about him. It might not have been anywhere approaching original, but at least I captured some secondary humour by accident.

A LITTLE LATE-NIGHT POETRY FOR THE HELL OF IT

So I’m taking over an hour of the Rockingham Writers Centre Tuesday Night writing group this week to throw some poetry exercises about, and to get people warmed up I’ve asked group members to write a poem starting “What good is a day…”
It’s rough as guts, very much a first draft; there are edits for rhythm and to make each stanza correspond to the sentence infrastructure of the first, BUT here, at least, is my effort:
What good is a day that ends in apocalypse?
What good is a day without you?
What good is the end of the world with no witnesses?
What good is a singular view?
Where is the sound of the rapture inside of us?
Where do our souls re-align?
Where can I go when you’ve risen away from me?
Where do I look for a sign?
How did the horsemen ride into our love affair?
How did the bed grow so wide?
How do the oceans not swallow the continents?
How many times have we lied?
Where are the angels to carry us to our rest?
Where are the wrong and the right?
Where are the chariots bringing the sun to us?
Where are you sleeping tonight?
What good is the life that creates an apocalypse?
What good a life without you?
What good in the end of a love with no consequence?
What good can I ever do?

FETISH FRIDAY: KATIE HOLLAND

I’m running a new series of guest posts throughout 2015: Fetish Friday. Don’t get all sweaty in the pants—I’m going back to an older definition of the word, and asking artists to show us something that helps them with the ritual of creation, some part of their surroundings—physical or mental—that eases the path into the creative state, whether it be a location, a piece of music, person, picture, a doohickey, whatnot, curio or ornament without which the creative process would be a whole lot more difficult.


This week we finally get away from the writer types as I entice one of my oldest pals to join us. Please make welcome the utter chanteuse that is Katie Holland:



“But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams   
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream   
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied   
so he opens his throat to sing.”
Maya Angelou



     I hate to trot out the tired cliché of feeling trapped but that is precisely how I spent the first three decades of my existence. A perfect storm of poor life choices, unfulfilled dreams and mental illness came to a head in 2012 forcing me to make a decision: leave an unhappy marriage on my own two feet with some shred of sanity left, or leave it in a pine box. To avoid any confusion, the problem with the relationship was not a fundamental failing on behalf of the other party, it was my dawning realization that you can live the truth, or go bat-shit crazy trying to live a lie.

Birdcages may seem an odd choice of inspiration for a mild claustrophobe with a fear of enforced deprivation of liberty and general dislike of being restrained but there you have it. I love birdcages more than I love sequins (and as a half  European showgirl  I really love sequins). The birdcage motif adorned the house I purchased after the marriage, a sanctuary for myself and my children. An empty birdcage with an open door fills me with calm and peace, which when creating on a deadline enables the kind of focus that a working parent can sometimes find hard to muster.

   

There is a beauty and simplicity in the design. In my mind, I can enter the cage and still observe the world around me from relative safety. The open door means I can leave at any time.  Today the symbolism of the birdcage is alive and well in the house that I share with my current partner. Hanging outside, tucked in corners, peeking around door frames. To me they whisper ‘home’. 


The bird still sings, but not for the dream of freedom. She lives the dream already.




Katie Holland is a Perth based vocalist, musician, artist and occasional writer of amusing Facebook updates generally centred around “Who done a poo?” When she isn’t wrestling with the ubiquitous day job she performs with her 8 piece rock/soul/jazz/funk band “Random Act”, records as a session muso for anything from country to jazz to metal, gets her Burlesque on as saucy minx about town “Holly Hooray” and generally takes part in anything that will allow her to wear sequins, red lippy or PVC. Preferably all at the same time.

Katie lives with her partner, 3 mostly adorable though occasionally sociopathic children, and (in her dreams) a pet goat. Her partner won’t let her obtain said goat so this biog may shortly be amended to remove him, and substitute the goat. She isn’t addicted to white wine, Pepsi Max and crackers as she could give them up any time she wants to. She just doesn’t want to.






Are you a creative artist? Fancy joining in and letting us know about that special item, object, location or cosmic state of being at the heart of your creative process? There’s always room for another lunatic in the asylum: email me and make your most excited Horshack noise. 

WHERE DO IDEAS COME FROM? MAIL ORDER, JUST BELOW THE RUSSIAN BRIDES.

Want to know where story ideas come from?

Yesterday, as part of my day job, I travelled to Perth airport to pick up an artist from Sydney who’s appearing at the outdoor sculpture awards I administer.

While I’m sitting in the arrival lounge, waiting for the plane to land, the tannoy announces a final boarding call for Ray and Mary Nelson, for their outgoing flight.

Ray and Mary Nelson were the names of my Mum and Step-Dad. 

They died in 2003.

Yeah. Like that.

FETISH FRIDAY: KIM WILKINS

I’m running a new series of guest posts throughout 2015: Fetish Friday. Don’t get all sweaty in the pants—I’m going back to an older definition of the word, and asking artists to show us something that helps them with the ritual of creation, some part of their surroundings—physical or mental—that eases the path into the creative state, whether it be a location, a piece of music, person, picture, a doohickey, whatnot, curio or ornament without which the creative process would be a whole lot more difficult.

This week, we say a hearty hello to Queensland author, academic, golden child and all-round Queen of Pleasantness, Doctor Kim Wilkins:

For me, it’s tea.
I know writers are supposed to love coffee, but I can’t stand the taste of it and it gives me the jitters. But I have never sat down to write without a cup of tea beside me.
I like Assam leaves the best: strong, sweet, and malty. But it’s not just the drink, you understand. It’s the ritual. I prepare the pot, I spoon in the leaves, I boil the water then let it cool for ten seconds (so it doesn’t scorch the leaves), then I brew the tea while I prepare my writing space. Light a candle, put some suitable music on, quickly clean up any dust and cat hair that might distract me while I’m writing.
Then I pour my tea into the appropriate cup (I have several I use in the same order every day; the one in the picture is for my second cup, when I first start work), and I sit down to write. I drink every drop.
Sitting down with my tea next to me, I know the day has started. My brain focuses, and I’m off. Preparing my tea is preparing to write.





Kim Wilkins has published 26 books and is translated into 17 languages. She is a senior lecturer in writing at the University of Queensland. She writes under her own name and under the pseudonym Kimberley Freeman.














Are you a creative artist? Fancy joining in and letting us know about that special item, object, location or cosmic state of being at the heart of your creative process? There’s always room for another lunatic in the asylum: email me and make your most excited Horshack noise. 



GROUP ACTION. IT’S BEEN A WHILE

With the advent of a new Writers Centre in Rockingham has come writing groups. And, as one of those groups is helmed by my very own Luscious, I found myself attending the first writing group meeting I’ve been to in something like eight years this week.

Writing groups can be a bit of a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it’s an opportunity to spend time with like-minded souls, discussing your passion and working in a supportive and welcoming environment. On the other, they can become platforms for mediocrity and personality conflict, and– particularly when work is being critiqued by a group of vastly differing levels– horribly unfocused to the point of uselessness. I gave up attending groups at my previous writers centre when it became obvious that everyone involved was more concerned with egoboos and capturing the perfect snarky put-down than actually goddamn writing.

But Luscious is on the committee of this new Centre, and this was the first meeting of the group she was conducting, and she’s an excellent professional who knows both how to write and bring out the best in others, and I’m an incredibly loving and supporting husband, and I was told I had no choice in the matter, so I went along.

Of course, Luscious is an excellent professional, and she knows how to make anyone and everyone in a room feel valued. The group was small, first time out– eight of us, including Master 10 and Miss 13, who came because both parents were going but contributed like the children of an artistic household, with creativity and verve. And because she’s good at what she does, I came away with three solid gold story openings.

So, regular Tuesday night writing group looks like a thing, and maybe just the thing to keep me in fresh material for the next wee while, which can’t be anything but good. Because when a writing group works well it’s usually because it has a strong, experienced, knowledgeable hand on the tiller, and I’m lucky enough to be married to just such a hand…. you know what I mean.

The room is littered with chipboard splinters. They’re ground into the carpet, spread like snow across my bed. My fists, and the soles of my feet, sting where a billion tiny slivers have pierced the soft flesh and now lie embedded, waiting to fester, and poison, and ooze septic pus. The pain should make me angry, or afraid. I’m not. I want to laugh. I want to laugh so hard I run out of breath. I want my ribs to ache, my heart to burst. I want to double over and collapse to the floor. I want to rub my face in the carpet until my cheeks and forehead and lips are a spiderweb of tiny cuts and splinters. I’m so happy I want to fucking scream. I want the corners of my mouth to split. I want to taste my blood. I want to hurt something else. Anything will do.

Exercise: Picture something from your childhood. Something intimate, that has great meaning for you. Now destroy it, utterly, and irretrievably. Why have you done that? How does it make you feel?

If you want to know more about the Rockingham Writers Centre, or Luscious’ Tuesday Night Writing Group, you could do worse than checking out their Facebook page.

FETISH FRIDAY: STEPHEN DEDMAN

I’m running a new series of guest posts throughout 2015: Fetish Friday. Don’t get all sweaty in the pants—I’m going back to an older definition of the word, and asking artists to show us something that helps them with the ritual of creation, some part of their surroundings—physical or mental—that eases the path into the creative state, whether it be a location, a piece of music, person, picture, a doohickey, whatnot, curio or ornament without which the creative process would be a whole lot more difficult.

This week, we present one of my very good friends, author of several fantastic novels, teacher, academic, and short story machine, Doctor Stephen Dedman:

Confession time: I don’t have a fetish. That is, I don’t just have one fetish; I have several. More than a talismonger in a Shadowrun novel. More than the House of Lords. More than a national furry convention… okay, maybe not that many, but you get the idea.
            That said, most of my fetishes aren’t physical objects. I have a rather messy desk, but I like to be able to write when I travel, and to travel light, so the only item on the desktop that is fetish-ish is my current favourite fossil, a beautiful ammonite with streaks of opal or ammolite. Having something millions of years old near my keyboard may not help me write, but it puts the process of dealing with publishers into perspective.
            Music I use to motivate me to write includes Ennio Morricone’s magnificent theme from The Untouchables, which is the closest thing I know to auditory caffeine (the 1812 Overture can serve the same purpose, but I’m usually too busy conducting to keep my hands on the keyboard). Fast-paced film soundtracks and instrumentals help me to write action scenes; song lyrics provide me with working titles. I’ve lost track of how many of my stories started off being called “On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair…”
            I’m not sure whether this counts as one fetish or many, but I have long been fascinated by the outre, the alien, otherness – and I keep lists of monsters, obscure trivia, weird beliefs, other people’s fetishes and phobias, a mental bag from which I can draw story ideas like pretty rocks. Of course, sometimes I have to wash my hands afterwards… and occasionally I feel the need to count my fingers, too.

            And, of course, I have a fetish for books as material objects, not just for their content. Why else would I have spent so much of my life trying to surround myself with them? 


Are you a creative artist? Fancy joining in and letting us know about that special item, object, location or cosmic state of being at the heart of your creative process? There’s always room for another lunatic in the asylum: email me and make your most excited Horshack noise.