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

Continue reading “FIVE FOR FRIDAY: A KARASS OF CAREER TWISTS”

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.

Continue reading “FIVE FOR FRIDAY: A KARASS OF TURNING POINTS”

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

Continue reading “FIVE FOR FRIDAY: WRITING HOMES”

FIVE FOR FRIDAY: ONE ALBUM, LIFE-LONG DEVOTION.

You know how it is. Some artists release a string of songs that speak to the innermost tremblings of your soul. No matter where you are in your life, somehow they seem to know, and find that connection, so that whatever is happening, you can pick up an album, or turn to your playlist, and find the words, and the music, that pick at the tendons of your feelings and bring your heart, and mind, and soul together in a syncopated, three-minute burst of perfection.

And then, you know, there’s Shoop Shoop Diddy Wop.

Somewhere in between, there’s a strange beast, or at least, in my listening life there is. Over the years, I’ve fallen deeply in love with an album, only to find that the love is pretty much exactly one album deep. Sure, there’s the occasional songs here and there, for a while. But never that tumultuous wrestling with my feelings, never that look across a crowded playlist that says You. Me. One the floor. Right now. Don;t even take your clothes off. I’ll chew through them myself. Some of these albums have been with me for years, and yet, they’ve never inspired me to go much further in pursuing that artist’s career, or my emotional reactions to their work.

Leaving aside Best Of’s, which are a different thing entirely, here, then, are five albums that I’ve carried with me since their release, which are still, lock-stock on my playlist in their entirety, but which are unburdened by company.

Five for Friday: One album wonders.

Continue reading “FIVE FOR FRIDAY: ONE ALBUM, LIFE-LONG DEVOTION.”

FIVE FOR FRIDAY: VISUAL ARTISTS

Full disclosure: if I could play guitar the way I wish I could, I probably wouldn’t be a writer. If I could act as well as I wish I could, I probably wouldn’t be just a writer. If I could draw, or paint, or create visual art… ah, if I could only do that…..

I’ve always loved the visual arts: deeply, at a level beyond my capacity to articulate. No trip to a new town, a new State, a new country, is complete until I’ve experienced the art gallery, the sculpture park, the local museum. I think in pictures, explain in diagrams, communicate in sketches and arms waved around to delineate space and placement.

Sadly, as anybody who has been following my Thumbnail Thursday posts, or has seen the few cartoons I actually managed to finish and have published over the years, can attest, it turns out I can’t draw for shite.

My sense of visualisation, however, is very strong. When I’m writing– when it’s going well, and the words are flowing at their highest swell– I have a very clear image of what I’m writing about; so strong that, at times, I’m doing little more than transcribing what I see, rather than truly creating from empty cloth.

Still, words are an artificial construct, a mechanical choice between pre-forged components relying on a social contract between author and audience to assign meaning to the thoughts being relayed. (See?) When I experience an image; when I see the combination of light, colour, form and medium and it sparks of an emotional recognition in me; it feels pure, unrestrained.

If I could, I would. Until then, I rely on my own imperfect tools, and my own limited repertoire of creative skills. But here are five artists who do things to me I can only wish I had the talent to replicate.

FIVE FOR FRIDAY: VISUAL ARTISTS

Continue reading “FIVE FOR FRIDAY: VISUAL ARTISTS”

FIVE FOR FRIDAY: FAVOURITE AUTHORS

Back when I was growing up, it’s fair to say that the explosion of artistic experimentation represented by the post-war literary boom, the New Wave, the Sixties, sexual liberation, good music, haircuts longer than a piece of peach fuzz, and colour television hadn’t really reached my hometown of Boganville. When I first started to entertain the idea of becoming a writer, benchmarking options were fairly thin on the ground: what i looked on as some sort of aspirational holy trinity consisted of everybody’s starter for 10: Asimov, Bradbury and Heinlein.

It’s far to say, I don’t exaggerate when I say going to University was the saving of my soul.

Over the years, I’ve stumbled across countless authors who have filled in gaps in my education, my understanding of the Universe, and paved the way for me to become an infinitely better human being than I was the day I first walked across campus (First, yes, I pretty much do separate my life into before and after day one of Uni, and second, if you think I’m an arsehole now, that’s probably fair, you should have known me then).

So, for today, here’s a list of five authors whose works I remain in love with, who continue to inspire me, and for whom I am, unashamedly, a fanboy.

FIVE for FRIDAY: AUTHORS

Continue reading “FIVE FOR FRIDAY: FAVOURITE AUTHORS”

FIVE FOR FRIDAY: POETS

When I was in my final years of high school: of barely-moderate achievement; from a family with a fair to middling military history; living in a Navy town; surrounded by friends who either came from a military family or had aspirations to join the military, I pretty much sold my mother on the idea that I was going to join the Army. I had long harboured a dream to join the Air Force– I was, as I still am, deeply in love with military aircraft, and wanted more than anything to be a pilot. However, when my eyes betrayed me, I decided I couldn’t bear to be in the Air Force and not fly, so the Army it was going to be. I applied for, and was accepted into, the Australian Defence Force Academy, and convinced my Mum that I was on my way to becoming a Lieutenant in the Intelligence Division.

Two days from the flight, I had a panic attack and cancelled everything. Instead, I enrolled in an English degree, and stayed at home for the next three years while I learned to write poetry. I literally ran away from the Army to become a poet.

To her dying day, I don’t think my mother ever quite forgave me.

My first publications were poems, and I still, every now and again– especially when the creative well is dry and I need to kick something into gear through sheer wordplay and condensed imagery– turn to poetry. There’s a comfort in working within the form, and a sense of pure satisfaction whenever I make it work (not often enough: I’m just not good enough, or disciplined enough, to be a real poet). My most recently completed long work is a poem, of sorts: a 32-stanza picture book I’m waiting to hear back from my publisher about.

So here, for the fun of it, are 5 poets whose work I love, and whose views of the world have influenced my own work.

FIVE for FRIDAY: POETS

Continue reading “FIVE FOR FRIDAY: POETS”