Archive for April, 2007

i saw you bathing

a handful of cupped water
against you

some drops are caught
in your hair
some cling to your body
and mingle with dirt
and your sweat

a few cannot bear the touch
of your skin they
fall away
like tears
glistening in the sun
they hang
in the
a sight – a sound
for just a moment

even when you love
you are burning

by Franki Crljen

This poem was written from a Bronze sculpture in the N.G.V. called THE BATHER. Traditionally sculptures of women bathing have been sculpted from marble and have been very elegant. The rough texture and bold complexion of this sculpture gave the woman a robust appearance. But for all that she was no less beautiful.

Cheers and Beers

Franki Clrjen


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Student Successes

It’s great to see our students getting published, getting jobs, doing wonderful things. Andrea McGlashan, who graduated from the Diploma last year, is now the new editor of Seed magazine here at VU.

Julie Smith, currently studying Writing for Young Adults, had three articles published in the Age Epicure section over the January break.

One of our “vintage” students, Campbell Mattinson, recently won wine’s top writing award – the Saltram NSW Wine Press Club Wine Communicator Award, for Wine Hunter. He also publishes an online wine newsletter called The Wine Front. Read more about Campbell on our website at http://www.staff.vu.edu.au/profwriting/

Our students are also featuring in a special publication for the Williamstown Literary Festival on 4-6 May. We call it our “brag book”! And during the festival, student Claire Saxby will be launching her second picture book A Nest for Kora at the Williamstown Library. I’m sure you’d all be welcome – 3pm on Sunday 6 May.

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I’ve finished the first draft of my novel! Amazing. Just over 63,000 words of blood, sweat and tears. 

This first draft has been three years in the writing, and I feel as if I’ve given birth to something enormous and unweildy.  The trouble is, you see, that writing the first draft in no way signals the end of the process.  It is a bit like having a baby: the labour is difficult, but taking care of the newborn is ten times more difficult than the birth.  I know that the really hard stuff is yet to come.  I need to edit, re-edit, re-edit and then do some more editing before it can become a manuscript that I would be proud to send out to a publisher, or even an agent. 

My dream, of course, is to get this out and published, but finishing the first draft doesn’t make me feel much closer to realising that dream.  It’s very strange.  I had thought that finishing would leave me feeling relieved and with an enormous sense of achievement, but now I feel I don’t even want to look back at what I’ve written for fear that all the errors and omissions will glare at me from the page and need attention.  It feels like an anti-climax. 

My writing teacher, Tracey, has instilled in me a daily need to write, but I’m giving myself permission to take two weeks off so that I can go back to my manuscript with fresh eyes.  I have to say that Tracey’s encouragement and advice to keep a daily word count is what’s helped me reach the end of my novel.  I began a sort of competition with myself to see if I could beat my own word counts each week and I became driven to write for at least an hour every day, averaging about 1,500 words a day.  Trouble is, I know for a fact that some of that writing is not up to scratch.  That’s why the editing process isn’t very appealing.  I know that some days, I was just trying to get words on the screen and telling myself I’d worry about the editing later.

Well – here we are at later.  In two weeks’ time, expect to see me walking around the place with a frown on my face!


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Okay, Tracey has asked us students to post our thoughts on our writing process. Well, I’ll begin with last minute dirges, as that what this post is, unfortunately. I won’t have time to edit, to censor my thoughts or analyse the logic and flow of my ideas. So this first attempt will be pretty much a stream of my consciousness.

I just had a chat with Brenda. Her computer crashed on her, so now she’s trying to get access through the uni, and guess what? She didn’t back up any of her work. A note to all: back up, back up, back up.

Now back to the writing process. What can I say? Knowing your character is key to writing your story, no, strike that, their story.

The better you know them, the better the story is. For example, knowing your character has OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder, means they’ll have a tendency to put their bag in the cupboard every time they come home after work, wash the dishes straight after dinner, store the sugar and coffee tins in the same place, and will always get peeved when the bags on the bench and the coffee’s in the cupboard.

Knowing what they wants, means you can stop them from having it, and this will raise the conflict in the story.

I have a nice book collection and love them. One day after working my arse off in a warehouse, I came home to find my beloved collection at on the lawn piled in a heap as if someone was going to set them on fire. I must I was pissed, and pissing off your characters makes for a good read.

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Poems from the gallery.

As I think has been mentioned before, the Poetry 2 class recently went to the Victorian Gallery during the break. I have to admit that it was quite unlike what I had been expecting. I think the last time I went there was when I was eight for a school trip. Then I had found it boring, and could not wait to leave.

However now I found it fascinating. There were some great paintings and sculptures in there. After we looked around, we each wrote a poem about the paintings we liked. There were some utterly fantastic poems from some of the class.

Recently I have found myself browsing through ‘Google Images’, and writing some poems based on them. Its a strange habbit I have found myself with, though not one I am displeased with. It allows me to write about different things, instead of the ‘same old, same old’ feeling that I had been feeling before the trip to the Gallery.

On Tuesday, tomorrow (how time flies), the class is heading out for a poetry reading, so that should be interesting. We have had a couple of people say that they would be reading some of their work, so that should be interesting.


Edit: Oh, I almost forgot my Poem.

I wrote this poem based on a picture I found at the gallery. Though It should go with the painting, I believe that it could stand on its own.

Endless windows.



I look through the window

To see the building inside

Only to witness a lawk

A joke, an impossibility

Where is your roof,

Or the desks inside

Why do I see,

Why do I see a building


And then I realise that inside

The building is another and


A Thought strikes m, If I turn

Will I see the endless

Window behind me?

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Poetry 2

Hello to everyone out there in cyberspace. It’s my turn to blog for Poetry 2 this week. I have been working on assignment two all week. The assignment states that each student will be required to lead the class in a writing exercise. The subject I’ve chosen for this assignment is Poetic Genres. The hard part has been trying to find poetry written by the same poet on the same subject but written in different poetic genres. At present, I’m still searching the Internet for this assignment. I have found a few examples but I still would like more.

Also, I still have to finish off a writing exercise from last week’s class. The class had to write a collection of images, six in total, and then with additional words, turn the six images into a poem.

Students have been asked to post a poem on this blog site. This is my first poem to be published in cyberspace.

The Rock

What can she say but good-bye
to a man who made his own rules
a man that stood tall and straight
who chose his own destiny.


She stood there in disbelief
There was no anger
No tears
But her heart was replaced
With a piece of solid rock.






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Tracey’s process

I’ve asked all my students to reflect on and blog about their writing process, but thought I would start with a post about mine, so they have some sort of reference point.

I love writing (or at least having written), but like most writers I can find many distractions to keep me from it. Sometimes it’s family. Sometimes it’s work. Sometimes it’s something else. I worked out years ago that keeping track of my daily word counts is a great motivator. (Ah, I hear all my students groan, that’s why we’ve all signed writing contracts! Indeed. And why I’ve signed a contract with them.) Some days, the words just burst onto the page, rather like water from a spillgate of a dam after heavy rains. Other days, I’m in drought territory, and those words are sequestered away in the plateaus and mesas of the desert — mining every one is an effort. But making that effort wets the thinkstone (sorry, a bit of my novel creeping in there), makes the next day’s writing easier.

Writing in scenes and chapters seems natural to me. That’s the way I think writing (if that makes sense). I know there are writers who write the whole story and then impose scene breaks and chapter breaks on it later, but I can’t imagine working like that. It works for them, and that’s great; it’s just not my way of doing things. Mostly, I write sequentially, but at one stage I was playing around with a King Arthur novel and was writing bits and pieces (ie scenes) as they came to me. Although I hadn’t figured out how I was going to stitch them together, I didn’t imagine it being a problem — I never bothered to find out because I decided the world had enough King Arthur novels anyway. But having restructured my first novel (which I’m reworking at the moment), and having to weave a second storyline through the narrative and tie-in all sorts of things, I don’t think that putting together that Arthurian novel would have been a problem — not one a few good transitions wouldn’t have taken care of, anyway.

The times I love best are when the characters just take over and start doing things of their own accord. I know some writers say this is nonsense, that the writer is always in control, but for me it certainly happens. I’ll stop writing at the end of a session and think, whoa, where did that come from? When I’ll reflect on what I’ve written, I’ll inevitably discover that of course those two were going to do that given who they are, but it’s not something I had previously thought about. Maybe it’s just a matter of yielding some of the conscious control to the subconscious? I’m not sure. And it’s not something I can plan, or that happens all the time, but when it does it’s magic.

Rewriting/editing is my favourite part: first the re-visioning, which is thinking about the whole story and recrafting it. Then sharpening sentences, tightening prose and, on the other hand, fleshing out setting and characterisation. I tend to write long, so I’m always conscious in rewrites of word counts. Am I cutting words? Have I cut enough that it gives me room to add something else? I’m also on the look out for repetition that isn’t necessary (or adding anything), for inconsistencies, tautologies and redundancies. All those extra little bits that slow pace and make writing flabby. Or for things like leitmotifs that I can exploit more.

In the past, I always considered dialogue a great strength, perhaps because it’s usually tightly written. But as I’ve grown as a writer, I’ve realised that mine tends to naturally come out a bit too direct. Fine in early drafts, but this is something else I’m paying attention to at the rewrite stage. But that to me is the great joy of being a writer — the journey into becoming a better one. Learning new tricks. New ways to add depth.

Tracey Rolfe

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