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I’m doing what now?

I have no idea what to write here, or if I’m making any sense but I’m the idiot that signed up for it this week.

One thing I learnt over the break is the way I need to approach my writing. I have two main projects I’m working on, one being for YA and the other for Novel. My novel project has been around much longer yet I’ve done less on it. Why? Because I’ve been writing whatever scene popped into my head and nothing was sequential. While I do have my basic outline that was getting covered everything was all over the place and I began to dread working on it because I had no idea where to go next.

During the month off I focused on my YA. I decided I would write a chapter every time I worked on it, and writing the chapters in the order they fit. Much easier to follow, and I found myself wanting to get back to it more often.

So what’s next – I’ve given up on what I’ve got and am planning to rewrite from the beginning, sure I’ll probably use quite a bit of what I already have but it still feels like I have a blank page in front of me, I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing.

Two other things are motivation and confidence. There are just so many other things I’d rather be doing, and right now I’m sick and can’t be bothered doing anything whatsoever.  The only reason I’m writing this right now is because I have to face Tracey next week (hi Tracey!) I’d much rather be sleeping, but if I don’t do it now then it won’t get done.

Then there’s having to subject your work to everyone, knowing it’s going to be picked apart and having to remember that’s it’s not a judgement of you as a person.

I hate workshopping, talking about my work with anyone outside one or two close friends (who smile and nod) but I want my work to improve.

What both of these come down to is getting it down on paper and putting it out there – what’s the point otherwise? 

And that’s what you get from my scrambled brain, here’s hoping it’s coherent.

Kathryn

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My Story

Well…how to begin? Um…I guess the hardest thing for any writer would be to actually get the right gears moving in your head, you know, the right stuff that keeps you going.

In my case and I’m sure in most of yours, I’m the type of person who requires a hell of a lot to get me going. I hate it when I sit down, have this mad idea in my head and then when I put pen to paper, the words don’t bring themselves to life. It’s like the pen was teasing me saying ‘haha you have an idea, but I’ll be damned if I’d write it’. Nothing irritates me more. Unfortunately for me, a few years ago I never had this problem.

All right, to begin, I started my story around four years ago with my close friend and artist Georgina Dimitriou. To us, it was all fun and games back then because questions didn’t have answers and finding them and placing them in [our work] was the easy part. For us, inspiration usually came from our everyday lives, which was actually quite interesting because we were both in most cases the same in everything, but in others totally different. So that was how it began,  with my ability to annoy people and write, and Georgina’s  amazing ability to draw. We managed to create something that would soon consume our lives.

Now let’s skip a bit of time to around last year.

NowI came to Vic Uni with some mediocre thought in my head and basically a pipe dream to create my story. Man, did reality smack me in the face harder than a bus. I didn’t realise that writing had its own set of rules and codes to follow. ‘Writing had rules?’ was the first thing that I said. I was answered with a yes and, with that, I basically lost my inspiration. So there I was at the bottom of the editing and teaching food chain. I lost confidence in my writing and deleted my whole story. Four years of work, deleted by a single push of a button (the backspace button is a helpful and evil friend). I gave up just like that. I realised that there were people in my class with their own work who tore mine to shreds, basically feeding it to the dogs and laughing with their half smiles, hiding the words ‘I couldn’t make it’.

That all changed though.

When I walked outside, a voice called my name in a friendly gesture and basically ordered me to tell them my story. That man was none other than my future writing partner Guven. He sat, listened and helped me with my work, giving me ideas on how to develop it and to push it further. It was like a dream come true: finally someone who appreciated my work in this course other than myself. I remember when we used to sit for hours brainstorming, writing and laughing with our story. It was a totally different feeling; words couldn’t describe it. For once in my life, I felt confident about my work.

So that’s what I’m basically saying, thanks to this course, I found so many people who wanted to learn more about my story and helped bring it to life. Words can’t express my gratitude to them (Guven, Maria, Sarah, Bianca and Pauline). Basically, these people became my inspiration, confidence and helped me understand that, if I didn’t take pride in my work, no one would.

So, this is the message I’d like to send to all you ‘beginners’: if you ever get stuck with an idea, remember that there are always those that are close to you who can lend an ear, remember that the teachers of this course are not there to put you down but want to see your abilities come to fruition and also remember that at the end of the day, when you’re writing for your story, if you don’t take pride in your work, no one will.

 Chris Zafiris

When our class was asked if we wanted to enter the Ada Cambridge Literary Competition as part of the Williamstown Literary Festival my first thought was, but I’m writing a novel, no time for short stories.  Then I considered that it would be good if we all supported it because VU was a major sponsor. After all, I had jotted down a very short story last year, basically to get it out, but also to help my counselling clients. I didn’t think it was ready to send in for a competition nor that I had time to edit and re-write it.

That’s where Chrissie came in. I soon learned how particular she was at editing so I asked if she would edit the story for me. She did. Thank you Chrissie. It was not only of great value to the work, but a good encouragement for me to have her vote of confidence with it. I think we underestimate our power of encouragement to each other as writers.

I never expected a great deal from the entry, even though I did quite a bit of re-working and was happy with it as it was. (You can always do more – the challenge is to know when to stop!) Well I was short-listed and published. This was my first ever attempt at any writing competition!

Back to the novel. The experience of being selected by experienced writers and then published has really changed my attitude and approach to my work on the novel.

It was not that I didn’t care before – I always cared – it’s just that now I think someone may actually want to read it some day. I believe that I am the only person who can write THIS novel. My whole life’s experience, my passions, my pains can be are unique. No one else has the same combination. I’ve found my motivation and passion to keep going.

I guess I can now take my writing a little more seriously, give it time and space and importance in my busy life. Having been published helps me to justify the time I take out from my family and business to write. It also feels like I’m part of a new club – one to which I want to belong. I almost dare to hope that I will finish this novel and may even find a publisher who will take a chance with a novice like me!
Brenda M

Blank Page Fever

The hardest part of my writing process is staring at the blank page in Word before I type the first sentence down. The white is almost blinding, and it makes me feel like I’ve accomplished nothing before this point in time. I usually work to a rough plan of a few scribbled notes, which doesn’t necessarily span the chapter or scene I’m trying to write. These looseleaf plans mostly consist of action cues: he does this, then this happens and so on. I also litter the page with specific ideas that I want as part of the scene, but haven’t figured out how to tie into the story line yet, e.g. Character talks about blah to evoke or foreshadow blah. I know why I want them, and have them there to slot in when the story shows a smooth opening for them. They’re left out of the vague plan because when I’ve included them in the past they feel unnatural or forced into the story. Having them on the plan page and at the fringes of my thoughts makes me unconsciously find them a place.

Sometimes, when the writing is not PWE-related, I’ll just jump on the comp and let loose. Uni stuff is a whole nother psychological story. I think the pressure I let form around school work unconsciously bars me from thinking I want to write, and so blurs the impulse to turn on the screen and bash at the keyboard. It eventually turns to the manic, in-the-zone typing I love, though getting there isn’t as easy. A lot of procrastination goes into a uni writing session’s lead up. I like to tell myself I’m thinking about the story while I’m reading or playing video games or whatever, and maybe I am (ideas do pop up at random times), but its all a stall. The excuses are numerous. My favorite: one more cup of coffee. Was that what Dylan was on about? Maybe. See! I’m even doing it now; off the track on some obscure tangent.

Anyway, back to the blank page which, funnily enough, is where all my best stall tactics are put into play. I’ve got my plan, I’m ten cups down, have clocked my video game and finished my book. Now it’s a staring contest. Where did I want to start? Consult plan; left open. Description? Dialogue? Thoughts? Shit, its due in a few days. Hurry up and start!

It always happens in a way that makes me feel I’ve given my lucid fingers over to subconscious thought. I think I get this from my days of freestyle rap. Mental gears lock onto something and then shift into action. A quick patter of keys; the first sentence. After that, it all starts to flow out, and I can just let go of doubts and worries. There’s always parts where I get slowed or stumped on ‘where to next’ or ‘how do I word this’, but having something on the page breathes the confident feeling of moving forward, and then no excuse can pry me from the chair and the current hurdle.

Matt Buschmann

Many of our students went along to the festival on the weekend and, by all accounts, enjoyed the sessions. There were two People’s Choice readings, where you put your name down to read and the audience voted on the winners. On Saturday, Hugh Deacon came third in that session, and on Sunday, Demet Divaroren won her session! Of course, it helped that some of the audience was her cheering squad, but Demet did an excellent reading of her work and thoroughly deserved the prize, as did Hugh.

It’s not an easy thing, to get up in front of a room full of strangers and read your own writing. Well done. A big gold medal also to Susan McGregor who did her Professional Writing placement with the festival. As well as being responsible for the program design and printing, she helped out in a dozen other areas including official photographer for the weekend. Susan now needs a well-earned rest!

A poetry excursion

On Tuesday night, some of the Poetry 2 students went along to the Spinning Room at ET’s Hotel in Prahran to the weekly poetry reading. Previously we had been to the Dan in Fitzroy, which is a convivial Saturday afternoon of all sorts of poems, and where you go and write your name on the blackboard if you want to read. First in, first reading.

The Spinning Room is a bit different – you have to put your name down in the “book” and the MC chooses what order you will read in. Two students – Franki and Trudy – braved the crowd and read a poem each. Well done! It’s a scary thing to get up in front of a room full of strangers and read your work. The featured reader was a guy called Cam Black – it was coincidentally the same person who read at the Dan last year, but I guess that proves that in some ways the performance poetry scene is not so big as you might expect. Cam had a fan club there who were familiar with his poems – some of them were familiar to us too. Georgina and I both won books in the raffle. Those students who didn’t come along missed out on experiencing a night of Melbourne street poetry.

No doubt in class next week we will discuss the pros and cons of attending readings – even if you don’t hear anything to your liking, it’s worth going along to see what other poets are doing. And how to read well. Our recording session for VU radio is coming up and we need lots of practice!

i saw you bathing

a handful of cupped water
splashed
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
air
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