Wednesday, March 15, 2017

'All the Bells Rang'

My introduction to Robin Klein's Came Back to Show You I Could Fly has been published in the Sydney Review of Books! You can read it here

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Girls on Film

In honour of International Women's Day I am posting some of my favourite women-centric movies in no special order:

Gas, Food, Lodging

Mi Vida Loca

Where the Boys Are  (both versions!)

My Summer of Love

Puberty Blues

The Dreamlife of Angels

Ghost World

How to Marry A Millionaire

The Craft


Imitation of Life

Grace of my Heart

The Girls of Pleasure Island

Valley of the Dolls

The Best of Everything

All Over Me

Mystic Pizza

The Group

The Stepford Wives

Thelma and Louise

Three Women

The Sandpiper

Mildred Pierce

Desperately Seeking Susan

Times Square


Heavenly Creatures

I guess I'll keep adding to it ... what are yours?

Sunday, March 5, 2017

"You look great, girl."

Enjoying the weird warped poetics of a pirated extract of Girl Defective translated from the Portuguese:

By the time it had all happened, I had known for three months Nancy. She was nineteen and sharp as a knife. I was fifteen And she was a bummer. We had met when my father Hired to clean the shop and the apartment. I remember her. Entering my room with the vacuum cleaner tube hanging in Round his neck, slumped and sassy as the arm of an evil boyfriend. It was only her mouth that opened and a thousand things were flowing. Did I happen to know that Could sharks shut down half of their own brain? That a person Averaged fourteen times a day? That in quiet neighborhoods Residential, middle-aged couples were having sex dressed as Stuffed animals? And I, who did not talk to anyone much, said: - No way! It did not take long and we were already talking out and killing The time, while the dishes were there, forgotten. My father had to send her. Though, but it kept popping up. Nancy's laugh - and I still I can hear her - it was a whinny that totally hit her. Glamorous appearance. "You look great, girl. "Girl". That's what she called me. Or "little sister," or "Amiga", or "little doll", or "macaquita". Sometimes she even wore the My name - Skylark, Sky -, always with that drawn way of speaking, that I felt like nails in my back, scratching an itch Which I did not even know how to have ...

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Electric Ladies, TO, wasted days

 My husband brought this book home and it sent me back to 1998, to a long, great day at the Toronto Library spent photocopying the 'Groupies' issue of Rolling Stone - I had heard about it but never seen it - I loved the pictures of these glam/scuzzy nightbirds with flowers in their hair and sleep in their eyes. I had gone to Toronto to try and work in publishing (I'd really wanted to go to the US, but no visa) turned out I wasn't particularly employable. In Toronto I found books like Mike Davis's City of Quartz, Susan Compo's Life after Death and Eve Babitz's Eve's Hollywood.  I saw Todd Haynes's Superstar, the Karen Carpenter Story, and Paradise Lost, an early doco about the West Memphis Three. In my TO folder I have a photocopy of Lynn Crosbie's poem Miss Pamela's Mercy and Ann Powers' chapter on fandom and feminism, 'The Love You Make'. I've never written about Toronto. Flashcubes of the time include Camel cigarettes, half-and-half milk, swimming in the High Park pool, the unexpected appeal of my flatmate's cats, watching a lot of Dawson's Creek. The Spice Girls were huge but I was already too old for them. You could get awesome cowboy shirts in Queen St. I didn't stay. I went a bit wobbly and ended up running away to England.

How is it that can time be slow and fast at the same time? I think about the line in Olive Kitteridge about our 'unconsciously squandered' days. Did I really go to Toronto in 1998? Who was that girl?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

"Once I was a blithe singer..." interview with Shirley Collins

In the UK over Christmas I had the good fortune to meet and interview Shirley Collins. I was quite a latecomer to Shirley's music; once I'd made all the connections (Davy Graham, Incredible String Band, Alan Lomax) it seems crazy that it took me so long. Now rarely a day goes by where I don't listen to something by her. it's more than just the songs, it's the way she sings them; the way her voice feels like the first and last voice. My interview ran in the Spectrum on the weekend, I think the first time in my freelancing life where an editor has said 'more please'  - click here to read and for your listening pleasure here is the first song from the recent brilliant album Lodestar.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Love Witch

The Love Witch, a new film with a 60s/70s aesthetic is only on for one more night at the Lido, Hawthorn. I highly recommend it! It's about a young witch in a California coastal town who's looking for love ... but is destined never to find it. It's funny and sly and rude and quite bonkers. And it looks amazing - clothes, sets. I don't know how writer, director,editor,stylist (auteur I would say) Anna Biller managed to find modern actors who look like C-grade Hammer Horror actors (Jerry, I'm talking to you), and I don't know if I'll ever get over the renaissance faire jongleur, or the 'ladies only' Stepford-esque teahouse, or Elaine's breasty artwork, all I know is this film made me feel strangely happy. Brava Anna Biller!

The divine Samantha Robinson

Was trying to find Elaine artwork - this is the closest I could get.

Visually like The Stepford Wives, kind of blowsy but still beautiful.

Or Roger Corman's The Trip

Scenes from Alex Sanders pulps!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

San Francisco, San Francisco

I first went to San Francisco when I was eighteen. I ate couscous in a youth hostel and got a tattoo and bought a pair of paisley pants in Haight-Ashbury and I was reading a lot of Kerouac so my diary is full of words like crazy and gone and every second person I met was a zen lunatic. At the hallowed City Lights bookshop I found Joyce Johnson's Minor Characters, her memoir of coming of age during the Beat generation and set to underlining it and making notes in the margins. San Francisco's Beat Museum didn't exist then, but now it's a showcase of beat-related literature, an intense hub of cultural ephemera. From the website: The Beat Museum is dedicated to spreading the spirit of the Beat Generation, which we define as tolerance, compassion and having the courage to live your individual truth. In one alcove there was a collection of photographs of women writers and associates, led by a quote from Brenda Knight's book, Women of the Beat Generation: the Writers, Artists and Muses at the heart of a Revolution:

"Why were there so few women among the Beat writers? and (Gregory)Corso, suddenly utterly serious, leans forward and says: "There were women, they were there, I knew them, their families put them in institutions, they were given electric shock. In the '50s if you were male you could be a rebel, but if you were female your families had you locked up." 

I'm fascinated by the lives of these women who were outside convention, and am reading whatever I can get my hands on. While away I read and enjoyed Helen Weaver's The Awakener - you can map Jack Kerouac by the women who've written about him - but how else would we have female accounts of this period in history? I find this so interesting - it's also why I'm drawn to books like Mary McCarthy's The Group and Rona Jaffe's The Best of Everything - they can be seen as feminist texts because they tell women's stories.  (NB: further reading on marginalised women in beatdom here). 

My SF trip ended with a reading at the Sausalito library - I read from Girl Defective and gave out a little zine about Tales of the City and share-houses and talked about the process of the memoir- it was lovely to see West Coast friends and share food and wine on a warm night with the bay all glittering around us. The Sausalito library has a community-run bookshop upstairs which was full of treasures - things I've been searching for like Reyner Banham's Los Angeles, the aforementioned Helen Weaver, and a photographic supplement to The Diary of Anais Nin. I had to be prudent with my purchases (hate that!) but now that I'm home I have spread out my artefacts and story-sparkers, my 'litter-ature': books and postcards, a zine about Marlon Brando, articles to read and leads to chase up, and once I get over my cold I will get down to the serious business of putting it all into some kind of order.

I travelled to the US as a recipient of the UNESCO Melbourne City of Literature Travel Fund, and was hosted in San Francisco by the VAR program.

(Many thanks to the directors and artists of Varda Arts Residency; to Melita, Ruby, Laura, Karen & Kathy; to Sausalito Library; to the UNESCO Melbourne City of Literature Travel Fund; to the inspirers and to my family.)

Writing process: The Magic If

"The life of a character should be an unbroken line of events and emotions, but a play* only gives us a few moments on that line - we must create the rest to portray a convincing life."

Konstantin Stanivlavski is my secret Robert McKee. I have been reading bits and pieces by and about him, mostly for a character in my YA work-in-progress, and the more I read, the more I think about how it applies to my own writing. I feel the need to know everything about all my characters even the secondary and tertiary (tertiary?) ones. Otherwise none of it feels real and then I don't feel like writing it. I think the answer might be to hold my breath and push past the moments where the story feels forced, at least in the early drafts, otherwise there's a danger of going so deep I won't be able to get back out.

I don't know when writing became so much about verisimilitude for me.

Other Stanislavski things I like:
-  relaxing before you start the work
- using objects to connect inner and outer states
- breaking plays* up into segments that pertain to a distinct theme - these themes then connect and build up to the 'super objective' of the play
- if you make a mistake go with it - it will draw you closer to your subconscious

Writing Exercise: Write about something impossible and unbelievable. (Was that fun?)

* or novels!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Friday, December 9, 2016

Found Things


1. Patti Smith - Just Kids - audiobook
2. Joan Aiken - A Small Pinch of Weather
3. Kurt Rowland - The Development of Shape

"We must try to arrange our surroundings in a series of harmonious relationships. In the living room, for instance, there are relationships between the structure, the materials, and the surfaces of the room, and the shapes of the furniture. All this is enriched by the colour relationships which reflect those within the painting in the foreground. The shapes and surfaces of everyday objects, living rooms, places of work, and even whole streets can be tied together by colour relationships."