FIVE FOR FRIDAY: A KARASS OF CAREER TWISTS

Last week, I touched upon five people who have had a direct impact upon turning points in my career. This week, I thought it would be interesting to consider another five people who have had an impact: not on specific turning points, this time, but in a more general sense.

Here, then, are five people who are in my writing karass not because they intruded at a specific time or place, but because they diverted the course of my river gently, or persistently, or in ways that cannot be singularly identified.

Five for Friday: A Karass of Career Twists

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THUMBNAIL THURSDAY MIXES UP THE CREATURES OF THE NIGHT

This one’s more whimsical than funny, but I quite like it. After inheriting three teenagers, and growing one naturally (with one more to come), this thumbnail, done during my child-free years, feels rather prescient.

Honestly, if I never have to remind another human being that they have to brush their teeth ever again……

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Dr Jones– Psychiatrist

“Crosses, garlic, running water… although we can’t tell if the last one

is because he’s a vampire or just because he’s a teenager…

SORT OF LAST CHANCE TO SEE… THIS WEEK, ANYWAY. MOSTLY.

Just a quick reminder that the KSP Christmas in July Literary Dinner, featuring readings by me, is on tonight. More details, including booking information, at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre webpage.

Also, don’t forget tomorrow night when, just like Billy Connolly or Ronnie Corbett, I have an Evening With!
 
An Evening with Lee Battersby takes place at Mundaring Library, and will feature me talking about writing as abstract art, the fearlessness of children readers, and possibly dishing out a little of Magrit or Ghost Tracks to prove my point. You can see more details on the Mundaring Library website or book through Eventbrite.
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No stranger to a stage, me.
 

DAY SIX: NUMBERS FOR BETTER LIVING

Anybody who thinks numbers aren’t beautiful has never been a writer. As much as I have a love of mathematics (much like I have a love of boxing: I’m not much cop at anything beyond the basics, but by God, I love what the form can do), it’s the rise in pure numbers that gets my authorial mind smiling.

Let me show you. As of the close of business today:

  • 6700 words on Ghost Tracks, taking the text from 17,500 to a shade over 24,100.
  • 3000 words on Song of the Water, equalling 1 complete short story, taking the proposed collection to, in a beautiful piece of symmetry, a shade over 24,100.
  • 300 words on The Ballad of Arthur Williams.

Equalling 10,000 words since I arrived here.

See? Isn’t lovely? Doesn’t that make you smile? Because it make me grin like a freaking loon.

The other thing that made me smile like a loon today was my family deciding I needed to be taken out for dinner, and driving all the way here to pick me up and take me out. I’m loving this small taste of the life I want to live– writing full-time; advancing projects on a daily basis; drinking up the solitary, reflective life of an artist– but it means nothing without the love and support of those I love, and I’ve been missing them terribly. Everything I do, everything I sacrifice, everything I undertake: without them, it’s ashes.

It’s a small thing: a meal together, some laughs and togetherness. But it gives me the motivation to keep going and do them proud.

 

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They followed me home. Can I keep them?

 

 

DAY FIVE AND STAGES THREE

A simple day, today. After the social butterflying and story completion of yesterday, it was time for a return to the word mines, and an attempt to get some serious traction on Ghost Tracks.

Having spent the last 4 days staring out at the same view, I decided to pack up my computer and head into the nearby town of Midland to write, just for the change of scenery. It worked: I managed 2500 words, and shaped up the next part of the narrative, so that the next day or two of writing should come as easily as today’s.

That represents an important turning point for me: I’m not a plotter, which means that I rarely have more than a general sense of where I’m going in the short term. I usually know where I want to end up– I have the ending of this novel all sewn up, for example– but the details of the journey are often only discovered very shortly before the characters find out. In loose terms, my writing comes to me in three stages:

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FIVE FOR FRIDAY: A KARASS OF TURNING POINTS

As much as I’m a died-in-blood-on-the-wool-of-the-lamb-that-lay-down-with-the-lion atheist, I’ve always had a bit of a leaning towards the fictional cult of Bokononism that Kurt Vonnegut espoused in my favourite of his novels, Cat’s Cradle. It’s a harmless creed of self-gratification, based around the tenet that you should believe the lies that make you happiest, and discard those fabricated, societal lies– say, for example, family, government, or honour– that cause you misery or harm.

My birth family imploded badly during the 1980s — and my own growth has shown me what a flawed, deeply unhappy accidental grouping it was — so the novel struck a cord when I first read it. Of particular attraction, and something I’ve held to ever since, was the notion of the karass– a group of people linked by common affect or circumstance, for good or ill, even if they do not know it. The girl to whom I lost my virginity: part of my karass. The doctor who killed my first wife: likewise. The teacher who first noted my talent for writing and helped turn me away from the military and towards a life in the arts: you get the idea.

It is not the link forged by societal expectation that counts. It is the link forged by the effect upon my journey that is the strongest.

So what does all this post-pop-psychology-posturing have to do with anything?

One of the main tasks associated with my current KSP writing residency is to provide a mentoring session to an aspiring artist. I don’t mentor as often as I used to. As I get older and my career gets more complicated, I find myself less and less sure about what I have to offer others, outside of straight writing advice. I’m less of an example, and more of an example of mistakes to avoid……

However, it does strike me as a timely opportunity to acknowledge five people who have provided important turning points in my career. Whether they know it or not, and whether they want it or not, they are– inextricably– members of my writing karass.

Five for Friday: Members of my Writing Karass.

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DAY FOUR: ONE DOWN…… A DIFFERENT ONE DOWN……

It was a day of achievement today: after kissing Luscious goodbye (there are advantages to undertaking a residency within driving distance of home- a visit from your wonderful wife is one of them), I embarked upon my first engagement of the fortnight– a forty-five minute interview by the participants of the KSP Press Club, led by my old pal and fellow author Melinda Tognini.

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THUMBNAIL THURSDAY HAD TO BE THERE

Okay, so they’re storming the castle, and the defenders are pouring hot…. oil?…. and there’s a drunk guy…. and he wants a cold…. oil?……

You know, sometimes, I look back at these scratchings made ten or more years ago, and I think “Wow, I could have made something of myself, if I’d just pushed at it. I can see where it all could have fit together.” And sometimes, well…… this.

No. I have no idea what I was thinking. I really, really don’t.

 

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” ‘Ave you got a cold one?”

 

DAY THREE AND AN EVENING WITH LEE

Day three of my residency, and apart from taking my work past a couple of notable milestones– Song of the Water passing 2000 words and Ghost Tracks cresting 20,000– today was notable for the appearance of a surprise guest.

There’s long been a rumour of a ghost here at the Centre, and sitting alone in a perfectly silent chalet in the depths of the rolling gardens is a perfect situation for a lonely ghost to come silently through the walls and hang in the space between the door and the desk, staring through you into the depths of a million alternative realities.

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KSP RESIDENCY: DAY TWO

My first full day of Residency, and it was important to set in place a routine that I can follow for my full time here. To that end, I started by being woken up at 2.30am: Greenmount may be idyllic, but it is also right under the departing flight path for Perth airport, and the planes are only a few hundred metres overhead and working hard to climb. Back in the day, I lived in Huntingdale, which is under the approach path– I got used to the sound of aircraft overhead, but that habit has not yet reasserted itself.

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2017 KATHARINE SUSANNAH PRICHARD WRITERS CENTRE WRITING RESIDENCY

It is upon us: this morning, I packed myself up, hugged Luscious and the kids goodbye, and hied me to the other end of Perth to commence my 2-week live-in residency at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre.

I’ll be working on 2 projects while I’m here: Ghost Tracks, the children’s novel wherein the protagonist derails a ghost train and is forced to travel to the otherworldly dimension to make amends; and the collection of short stories about supernatural incursions into historical events in Western Australia. In addition, I’ll be attending some writers groups, conducting a workshop, and being a part of some events throughout my stay.

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PRECIOUS THINGS: ANDREW J McKIERNAN

Andrew J McKiernan is a writer and Illustrator, living and working on the Central Coast of New South Wales. His stories have been everywhere since he first appeared in 2007, the length and breadth of his talent resulting in multiple Aurealis, Ditmar and Australian Shadows Awards nominations, and a metric fucktonne of Year’s Best anthology appearances. He was Art Director for Aurealis Magazine for 8 years and his illustrations are as good as his stories, the talented bastard: you can see a bunch of them over on his website, as well as on covers and internals all over the shop. He even looks natty in a hat, a skill I envy with much greenness of the eyes.

Here then, is he, hat and all:

Precious Things: Andrew J McKiernan

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FIVE FOR FRIDAY: WRITING HOMES

As of Monday, I start a two-week residency at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre. I’ll be away from my home and family, tucked up in a little cabin, where I’ll be pounding away at Ghost Tracks and a bunch of stories for my untitled-horror-stories-set-throughout-Western-Australian-history thing I’ve been chipping away at for god knows how long. I’ll also be delivering a public talk and a workshop, mentoring an aspiring novelist, and attending a literary dinner at the Centre– I’ll post an itinerary so you can join me in the general merry wassailing and biscuits.

For the moment, however, I thought it would be timely to visit some of the other writing destinations that have housed me over the last 16 years, and provided me with an opportunity to do something other than sit alone, in a room, crying tapping out silly things on my keyboard.

Five for Friday: Writing Homes

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THUMBNAIL THURSDAY SMASH

Let’s be honest. The Hulk is the comic book version of Paul Revere: anything you fit into that whole “Hulk SMASH!” vibe is going to be as funny as “Give me (insert here) or give me death.”

Or, at least, funny to me.

This is the inside of my head. You all just live here.

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“HULK REVERSE!”

“You know, that really is getting old…”

PRECIOUS THINGS: CLAIRE DAVENHALL

I first met Claire Davenhall several years ago, as an entrant to the annual outdoor sculpture exhibition I coordinate for my day job. Claire made an impression on everyone at the exhibition: partly because she’s quite physically small, and she had a habit of lugging things like 8 foot high, solid steel shark fins up and down the beach, but also because there was a time where she seemed to coincide the exhibition with the birth of her children– giant shark fins are one thing; giant shark fins being lugged about by she-must-be-ready-any-moment pregnant women is a whole different class of funny!

I’ve had the very great pleasure of watching Claire’s art practice grow over the intervening years, and frankly, I’m taking credit: she’s my discovery, and now that she’s exhibiting at things like Sculpture by the Sea and Swell Sculpture Festival on a regular basis, it’s about time I got my finder’s fee…..

You can see Claire’s work on her website. She’s a fantastic talent, a lovely person, and as you’re about to read, a real weepy 🙂

Precious Things: Claire Davenhall

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