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Eastern Curlews in flight

Nature Writing Part 3

By | Nature writing, News
Put A Bird In It by Julia Brougham

Birds in flight make air visible. Air flows through and within them as they fly through the air, inhabiting the spaces within and between each feather on a structure exquisitely evolved to enhance flight; strong, light, hollow, honeycombed bones; lungs full of elastic air sacs for super-efficient breathing supplying oxygen to a brain capable of very complex behaviour. No redundancy, no waste. Birds are the fastest, highest, most successful of all the animals that fly. Tim Low published a book in 2017, Where Song Began: Australia's Birds and How They Changed the World. But now we are changing the world faster than they can adapt.

The East Asian–Australasian Flyway runs from Siberia and Alaska down through east and south-east Asia to Australia and New Zealand, crossing twenty-two countries. Five million birds from fifty-five species fly from their northern hemisphere summer breeding places to Australia’s winter to rest and grow fat for the return, an inter-continental round trip of over 20,000kms each year. Dredging estuaries, damming rivers, building on wetlands; we are destroying the migratory bird stopover sites. Innate navigation systems and instinct drive them on. Fewer and fewer reach their destinations. These global travellers, following an endless summer, have been connecting continents for millennia but now they are becoming harried, unregarded, dispensable refugees.

The Bar-tailed Godwit crosses the Pacific Ocean from eastern Australia to Alaska, then returns six months later. All the Bar-tailed Godwits leaving Alaska stop at the Yellow Sea, between mainland China and the Korean peninsula, to forage and put on fat for the final week-long non-stop flight to Australia. A supremely athletic performance, it is one of the longest non-stop migratory flights known amongst birds. But the food-rich tidal mudflats of the Yellow Sea are disappearing rapidly. Industrial, agricultural and domestic sewage is changing the colour of the sea and contaminating the waters and habitats. 
Mural of the Bar-tailed Godwit, on Stockton Bridge
This picture of the Bar-tailed Godwit on Stockton Bridge is one of a set of new murals - worth a look.
The Eastern Curlew breeds in Alaska and Siberia and most of the world’s curlews spend winter in Australia.  Our moral contract to protect coastal wetlands for them and the other shorebirds should have high level oversight, but environment laws are wishy washy. Filled with aspirational words like protect, raise awareness, control dogs on beaches, practical, they are not enforced and are failing to protect the birds. “The Office of Environment and Heritage has identified no priority actions to help recover the Eastern Curlew in New South Wales”. Harried, unregarded, dispensable refugees in the estuaries of the Hunter River, Port Stephens, Clarence River, and Richmond River. What chance has a speckly brown bird, about the size of a backyard chook with a weird mournful call, against the dollar call of residential, retail, marina development, hotel, port facilities and tourism infrastructure? The graph of the world population of Eastern Curlews is curving downwards far more steeply than the curve of their remarkable 18cms long beak.

Eastern Curlews in flight
A bonus for Australia - our birds are the most musical, intelligent, aggressive and loud. For our backyard magpie we can add sociable, inquisitive and sometimes feared. 

Colin Thiele’s magpie “sits on a high, high gum tree and rolls the sunrise around in his throat like pink beads of light” and “tumbled the morning air around with so much happiness”. Want more of that?  Whistle and sing with them. Be happy-foolish and yodel wardle-doodle-dardle to them. They’ll listen and respond for their species name is tibicen, Latin for piper or flute. 

The castanet clatter of a beak, whack on head or bicycle helmet, sudden sound of fast-moving air through feathers, is a springtime contest - Big Daddy Magpie protecting eggs or chicks against strangers. Make contact and make peace with a food offering. Woo your local magpies with a handful of shredded cheese and talk to them quietly. They will remember and, as they live for around 25 years, for a long time.
Magsy a rescued magpie
Magsy was a rescue we had. She wasn't a well bird but after 11 months of care flew away from home to be with the wild ones.
There are around 870 species of birds living in Australia. Thirteen species have already become extinct and fifty are listed as threatened. Bird calls fill our bushland, wake us early in our suburbs and haunt us in the dark hours.  To lose any more to extinction would be absurd of us. Rude, careless, silly.
Julia Brougham HWC member and blogger about Nature Writing
About Julia:

Born in Bunbury WA, lived for six years in South Africa, moved to South Australia and with husband John lived in the Far West, the mid-North, Eyre Peninsula and Adelaide. Since 2002 we have become forever Novocastrians. 

In childhood my fascination with native plants and animals was heavily influenced by a Dad who had an affinity with animals of all shapes and size, and a Grandfather who took us on bush outings at weekends. Love of the natural world and volunteering as a landcarer on Ash Island are ways of connecting with people who combine ecological knowledge with scientific rigour and impassioned care of our natural environment.

Books and reading began early too. My reading habits are wayward and well supplied. We have shelves and cupboards full of books, sometimes in double rows. Becoming a member of Hunter Writers Centre has added to my book stacks as I became involved in the marvellous workshops leading me to new reading places like oriental poetry forms, modern American fiction, grammar and who knows where. 
The words I write daily as the current coordinator of a landcare group are, whether necessary administration or a creative writing piece, an act of advocacy for care of nature. Now more than ever the environment needs advocates who can speak for it and do it well.  To help this along I am hosting a new Meetup group "Nature Writing In Company" which will begin in August on Ash Island. Who knows where that will lead and who will find their voice.
BlueKnot grieve logo and image of the CEO Cath Kezelman

Blue Knot Foundation

By | Grieve, News

Within Blue Knot Foundation, the national Australian organisation which supports adults who have experienced all sorts of trauma, abuse and violence in childhood grief and loss is never far from the surface.
   Whether it is loss of childhood, of innocence, of meaning, of family or of possibility, Blue Knot works to help those affected to feel safe, rebuild trust and find a path to hope and healing. It is not about simply getting over it and getting on with it but it is about the support of others – listening, hearing and being there with and for one another. It’s about being human and sharing the vulnerabilities and sensitivities we all experience, at different times in our lives.
   My experience is that grief takes as long as it takes. Each and every person has their own experience, their own way of trying to deal with it, of processing their loss and an intensity of emotion, which at times, feels unrelenting and infinite. Yet as an organisation we daily witness the resilience of the human spirit, buoyed through connection and community, over time.
   Helping to judge some of the entries to the Grieve writing competition has been profoundly moving and humbling. The experiences of grief and loss, so deeply personal have presented works of raw honesty and lyrical imagery, metaphor and narrative rarely shared.
   To find out more about Blue Knot Foundation visit www.blueknot.org.au

Cathy Kezelman
President

Book cover 'Fire In the Veins'

Spec Fic Writing Pt 2

By | News, Speculative Fiction

Putting the characters in the driver’s seat by Graham Davidson

Why be a control freak when you can let your characters drive the story for you? 

Put a group of Spec fiction writers together and they’ll often get caught up in the Pantsers versus Plotters debate. For those unfamiliar with the argument, Pantsers generally start with a setting and some basic characters, then make up the story as they go with no idea how it will end till they get there. Plotters on the other hand will meticulously plan their story, with a clear picture of the story’s conclusion before they put pen to paper. Both methods are as valid as each other, and both have their advantages and disadvantages. Yet one thing I’ve found most Pantsers and Plotters agree on is that their characters should have free rein to drive the story.

So, why is this one area where two such diametrically opposed approaches find common ground?

The answer is simple. Getting to know your characters is like getting to know people in the real world. No matter how much you analyse them beforehand, it’s not until you see them interact with others and face difficult situations that you know how they’ll react. For me, discovering how characters are going to react to a given situation, and what little secrets they may have hidden, is one of the great joys in writing. An example that comes to mind from my recent Witches of the Cross-worlds middle grade novel, Hunter, is a gravedigger named Sean O’Malley. After a pauper’s funeral presided over by one of the novel’s central characters, the Reverend Alfred Casey, the priest rides off leaving O’Malley to fill the grave. As soon as the priest is out of sight O’Malley jumps into the grave and steals the dead man’s shoes, something I hadn’t planned or expected… it just seemed to happen. O’Malley went on to become one of the central characters in the book; a portrait of self-serving, evil intent.

When sitting at the keyboard it’s as though I’m observing and chronicling an unfolding story. At the start of a scene I’ll play the director; making sure everyone’s where they should be, and that the mood is right. I might put words into one character’s mouth to begin with, but after that it’s time to sit back and let the imagination run free with how the characters respond to situations and interact with each other. Meanwhile, I madly try to write it down while it remains fresh in the mind’s eye. When writing dialogue, this means skipping all attribution until the conversation is finished. You can always add tags where needed later.

The rewards are many when characters do or say something unexpected… like O’Malley stealing the dead man’s shoes. This is often when I’ll decide to end the scene, even if my original intention had been to carry it on for longer.

When a character’s actions or words take the writer by surprise, you can feel confident it will do the same for the reader. And that will keep them turning the pages to see what other surprises may lie in wait for them.

photo taken by Kit Kelen

Poetry Writing Part 4

By | News, Poetry

Poetry Process by Professor Christopher (Kit) Kelen

I want to write a poem about the different modes of process I encounter in drafting poems. I started these posts with what I call the peripatetic mode; that is, drafting while walking. This is something I do all the time (almost daily), but particularly in a place like Norway, where the walking is so spectacular – so spectacular in fact that the Norwegians see themselves as being ‘on tour’ whenever the opportunity arises.

So here’s how I started…

where is a poem from?
(towards a catalogue of modes)

out of an ache or an itch?
from habit, difference, repetition

o say can you see

there is the peripatetic
else how are we here?
a sauntering and sidle up

of the weather
now and then lightning strikes

go breathlessly
tumble to wash
the poem with topic, theme
tune, temper

tell only the truth
that way more truth comes
it’s epic
and it can be sung

the poem of its politics
the wake-up

no two suns the same

here’s day or could be dreaming
there is from sleep with pen beside
and often over/under scrawl

in annotation mode
(so in, let’s say, the presence)

climbs out from under a pile of words
and sometimes sorry for itself

the here-and-now diaristic
glad of a season and stretch
a catalogue of fancies

no moment like this

you should have seen the other fish

the temperate
all wise saws

and there is the tropic
everything is something else
so let the poem be
building
body
beast
it’s lovely to be naked
playing under the sprinkler

how rainbows have fallen
there isn’t the ice now to hold up the poem

in all innocence
how hungrily it leaps now
there isn’t the night to hide


So that was the plan for last week
however

landing in Hong Kong on my way home
put me firmly in the political mode
because of what’s happening there
… so I drafted this

1303
old play book
(poem for Hong Kong)
26.vii.2019

remember this!

thugs show up from nowhere
but they were always here
there and everywhere

because the people rose

they were waiting for the signal
ours and among us

where are the police today?

could be anytime
anyone
anywhere

they cart you off for what you believe
they call a bullet law

what does that sound like to you?
something like this has happened before

this is the city that will remember
these millions are just themselves

see them on the street to say

dress all the same today
it’s white shirt and chopper
(Yuen Long fashion)

someone stands up says
democracy
justice

where do we empty out the words?

the ones making history won’t know it

and the mocking laughter comes
are they anyone’s brothers, sons?

the ones in the uniforms
the ones who improvise
buy a steel bar in the hardware store
flash mob, pop up anywhere

loyal to what they are told, to a dollar
they are the terror today

with cudgel, with chopper
we know the kind of world they wish

where are the police?
when will they come?

‘I have the right’ somebody says
‘I know what things are over the border
how they are’

will you know a fascism when it comes?
can you hear the hot breath of how it has been?

the monsters are out on the streets again
long leash they have
and feel so free
(does not require intelligence
but they feel their love is true)

could be anywhere now, tomorrow

the big monsters and the little
the ones who pay
those who are paid
see them shaking hands
what a great job everyone’s doing

and the people are out to be themselves
to simply say ‘it’s us
don’t forget’

the border is shrivelling up now
the border is almost gone

it is a ceremony ¬– difference

do you know how this ends?

names in a book
summary justice
not justice at all

they cart you off for what you believe
they call a bullet law

we know how it is over there
there is no information

tyranny leads away from truth
from rights
reporting

how prosperous we’ve been
it was a cure for poverty
to smog the sky
beyond a breath
but everyone believed

so sad
so sad so wrong

we have been too many
now so small

the thugs are out again to say
‘don’t dare
don’t think this place is yours
or that you will decide’

how weary the world is with this story
and here we come
the monsters are out again

something sharp in the hand
they hospitalise
strike like a storm
where you won’t know

we know how things are handled here

will you be among those who stood?
or hide, like me, at home in words?

somewhere to otherside the world
in a future no one can foresee

I hear it
a murmur
they are adding to a long list of names
poor poor old Hong Kong

I remember how it ends
how the tanks roll over all who stand

stand up!
they are coming again

tribes of ‘don’t know’
brigades of forget
thugs who thrilled with the kill

here is the city that will remember
fly in the ointment
thorn in the inside

and go about your business
pretend

the point however is to change the world

do you think they’ll let it go this time?

it’s only a simple thing to wish
everyone fights to be free

and someone says
‘get real
politics is an art of the possible’

they cart you off for what you believe
they call a bullet law

will they leave flowers?
will you be among those who stood?

to save ourselves from dictatorship
this is everyone’s lifework

some take to the streets
some creep in a poem

whichever way you witness
remark
protection from tyranny
injustice

the song says ‘stand up’
won’t you?
won’t we?

or is it just a song?

so sad
so sad
so wrong
poor, poor Hong Kong

*

so
more on the modes
and particularly the annotation mode
in my last post
next week

Overpass roadway in Hong Kong viewed from balcony
photo taken by Kit Kelen
photo taken by Kit Kelen
photo taken by Kit Kelen
Front cover for 'No Baths Week' book by Katrina McKelvey

Writing for Children Part 1

By | News, Writing for Children

Writing for children is easy—right? Wrong! by Katrina McKelvey

a baby readingWriting for children is complex. After all, the readership is complex. To put it simply: kids are smart!

Children deserve stories that are compelling, breathtaking, and authentic that will make them think, empathise and wonder. Childhood is about learning, exploring and growing—mentally, physically, emotionally, socially—and the literature we present to them should contribute to this. We need to raise thinkers with the help of good quality literature.

Now, if you think writing for children (especially those books with all the coloured pictures) is easy, all you need to do is write a story in less than 500 words. Easy, right? Let’s take a closer look.


‘Picture books provide a beautiful experience that leaves 
the reader impacted, changed and empowered.’  
Essie White, US Agent

 

Australian publishers know children are complex and deserve the highest quality literature. They know and respect how clever children are. They don’t want to present literature that is preachy, repetitive and boring. That’s why only around five in 1000 picture book submissions make it through to publication in Australia every year.

Over these four articles, I will share a little about my publishing journey, as well as offer ways you can start your own journey to publication. It’s a long one. In fact, there are many paths, and no one can predict how long each path will be. There are NO overnight successes. It took me four years to get my first book published and another four years for the second and third.

It’s well known that authors and illustrators need the 6 Ps—patience, persistence, practise, perseverance, passion, and positivity. If you’ve got these, you’re ready to start.

Following this post I will discuss: The different ways you can write for children; How to learn more about writing for children; How to find an illustrator, a publisher and how to submit your manuscript to a publisher.

Loads of people decide they’d like to write a children’s book. Some people believe they have something to say. Some want to record family stories. Others want to fulfil the dream of having their name on the cover. All these reasons are valid, but the core reason will be what drives authors through the hard times and towards a published book. Is wanting your name on the cover enough? I don’t believe so.

But all beginning authors need to ask themselves, ‘Why do I want to write for children?’.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • What are your childhood memories of reading and books?
  • Read like crazy! Read as many books as you can in the same format as you want to write in.
  • Take note of the author, illustrator, and publisher of the books you like. Why do you like some and not others?
  • Who will be your inspiration? Who do you admire in the industry?
  • Observe children. Listen to their dialogue. Take notes.
  • Write down ideas as soon as they come to you. They flutter in fast but leave at the same pace.
  • Watch illustrators of picture books. Observe how they tell stories visually.
  • Not all ideas become stories and not all stories will be published. Stories, characters and ideas evolve over time.
  • Ideas come from everywhere! Be observant! Be ready!
  • Follow your passion and not trends! Stories take years to perfect, so by the time your story is published (which could take years), that trend is long gone.

As you begin to write for children, here are a few questions you need to ask yourself:

  • Are you a reader? Read! Read! Read!
  • What are children reading?
  • Have you scheduled in writing daily? How often can you write?
  • Can you accept feedback? And not just from family and friends.
  • Have you heard of ‘show, don’t tell’?

And there are decisions that need to be made:

Before you start:

  • Who will be in my story? Great characters are crucial to keeping the reader interested until the end.
  • What structure will I follow? Structure needs planning in my opinion as the word count is limited. And kids love a twist.
  • Who is my intended audience? How old are they?
  • Will it rhyme?
  • First or third person? Past or present?
  • What is my word count?
  • What is the conflict in my story? Or is it a concept book?
  • What language devices will I use?
  • Do I need to do some research on my topic?
  • Is there a book already published similar to my idea? If so, how will mine be different?

During the writing process:

  • Do I know the themes of my story? Are they universal, complicated, sensitive, social?
  • Have I developed interesting, relatable, authentic characters?
  • Do I have excellent plot, dialogue, pace, mood?
  • Do I have a great ending? Have I left my reader satisfied?
  • Does my story have heart? Does it have an emotional core?
  • Can my story be enjoyed over and over again?
  • Do I have a great hook?
  • Does my story resonate? Is it engaging for children and adults? Is it memorable?
  • Do I have a strong, authentic voice? Write from the perspective of your deep, inner child.
  • Is every word needed? Make every word count. Delete unnecessary words.

Reality check: Beautiful writing doesn’t mean it’s publishable. Beautiful writing can win competitions, but this doesn’t mean it’s publishable. All my published books have been entered into competitions and haven’t won a thing. I have friends who have won competitions, but their books have never been published.

Another reality check: The industry is subjective. Different stories are magic to different people. One publisher could love it, while the next doesn’t. This can cause frustration and confusion. But you need to want it! Hard work, a strong belief in yourself, and a dose of stubbornness can get you through—that’s how I do it. Oh, and I keep going back to my original question, ‘Why do I want to write for children?’

It’s OK if you feel a little overwhelmed after reading this. It takes years to get your head around it. I feel like I have completed the equivalent of a university degree over that last eight years with the amount of educational opportunities I have completed in this industry. I believe learning the craft of writing for children is ongoing, but the basics remain the same.

And as they say in this industry, once you learn the rules, then you can go and break them.

So, is writing for children easy? Nope! I know—I’ve got the 200 rejections to prove it. But I also have five traditionally published books to show for the hard work I’ve put in over the last eight years. Each book was like starting all over again. Each of my books took 3 – 5 years of writing and submitting to finally get through. I currently have others out there trying to find homes. Others are being edited, others being written, and others swimming around in my head. It’s a juggling act but I’m where I want to be and I’m happy.

 

Katrina McKelvey author

Katrina McKelvey is a children’s author with over ten years primary school teaching experience. She’s currently working on her first chapter book series while developing new picture book stories. She’s highly involved in the Children’s Book Council of Australia, literary conferences and festivals, and loves visiting schools. No Baths Week and Up To Something are Katrina’s recent publications, after her successful debut picture book, Dandelions. Two more picture books are coming in 2020. She loves chocolate but doesn’t like chocolate cake. She’s left-handed but plays sport right-handed. She loves tea, but dislikes coffee. Katrina lives in Newcastle, Australia with her family and a naughty puppy. Google her or visit her website: www.katrinamckelvey.com

Grieve Comp anouncement, boat in mist

Announcement – Grieve Competition 2018 Finalists

By | Grieve, News
Grieve volume 6 cover photo

Congratulations to the 110 writers listed below. These poems and stories are published in Grieve Volume 6 available from the Grieve Project  website. Here is the list of 22 prizewinners who have won the prizes kindly donated by our sponsors.

Title First Name Family Name
4pm Sara Crane
A black point Niko Campbell-Ellis
A Day in October Kim Waters
A hard won Spring Tahra Baulch
A Japanese Airman Forewarns His Wife Brett Dionysius
A Letter Anahata Giri
A Love Letter to My Incarcerated Sister Trixi Rosa
A tea-rose for Frieda Louise Wakeling
Ashes Gillian Telford
Bendalong Michele Seminara
Black News Anthony Levin
Blood and bone Justine Hyde
Blue Deb Godley
Blue Karen Wickman-Woldhuis
Broken Decima Wraxall
Burial Connor Weightman
Cairo Natalie Holder
Camp David Thérèse Murphy
Chemo days Trisha Pender
Choosing Gail Hennessy
Circumference of desire Jenny Pollak
Circumspection Paul Hetherington
Cold Karen Lieversz
Comfort Steve Evans
Custard Lindsay Watson
Custodian Norm Neill
Dear Diary Richard West
Debt for Life Barbara Rosie
Detritus Joan Katherine Webster
Ether Jo Withers
Eulogy Grace Dwyer
Even Richard James Allen
Everything I need to know Susan Bradley Smith
Everywhere Jo Gardiner
Fairy Dust Louise Baxter
Family portrait Grace Dwyer
Farewell to Billy Duluth Lesley Carnus
Fathom Nicole Sellers
Fells Philip Radmall
First season Jane Gibian
Grief Is Kim Anderson
Grieving is Overrated Mark Bromhead
Guilty gratitude Christine Burrows
Hashtag Karenlee Thompson
Heartbeat Emily Usher
Hot and Cold Belinda Oliver
How it is Alison Flett
I have the weight of a life that is substantive and real on my shoulders Sook Samsara
I wish I knew Helen Angela Taylor
In black and white Ian Wicks
In the Quiet Moments Emma Pasinati
Indwelling Ron Pretty
Intermission Jenny Pollak
KNITTING, ENDINGS and GRIEVING Anne Boyd
Kulaluk Paul Drewitt
Let it not be this Jennifer Chen
Let Me Introduce You Vanessa Farrer
Looking for Clark Gable Alexandra Geneve
Lost Jacqueline Damen
Maracas Trixi Rosa
Memoria in aeterna Sandie Walker
Motherless Daughter M Fletcher
My Dear Son Michelle Wong
My Elisa Alexandra Geneve
No one is ever really gone. Tim Hardy
Not Crying, Dancing Linda Stevenson
Not Horses, or Mothers Lisa Jacobson
Not long, my darling Audrey Molloy
On My Mum’s Passing Belinda Paxton
On the hottest midwinter day on record Peter Lach-Newinsky
One Lump or Two Billie Ruth
One Word Rob Selzer
Renovations Sylvia Muller
Residue Judy Mullen
Resting Bitch-Face Thérèse Murphy
Scenes from a Hospital Kate Ryan
Since you Beth Spencer
Sirens Meg McNaught
Skin and Bone Melissa Manning
Small Things Cameron Langfield
Some time later PS Cottier
Sometimes, Love Isn’t Enough Louisa Simmonds
Still Lauren Forner
Stuff going on while I’m paying rent Glenn Aljatreux
Super Hero Fiona Everette
Tears Marianne Hamilton
The day after coming home from hospital Claire Watson
The Hobs of Drought Jan Iwaszkiewicz
The lactic acid in the calves of your despair Ali Whitelock
The Line Our Thread Cynthia Troup
The little ones Christine Kearney
The Skeleton Nicole Melanson
The Stone Jar Chris Lynch
There are days Penny Lane
This big bright land Simone King
Those Days Sarah Bourne
Three Unbearable Things Helen Richardson
Time Alyssa Sterry
Time for Grief Seetha Nambiar Dodd
Tough Love Barbara Hunt
Try Judy Mullen
Two Trees Tanya Richmond
Ultrasound Lisa Jacobson
Vincero, I will overcome Merran Hughes
What About Me? Samantha Noble
Where has my family gone? Michael Cole
Why I can’t talk Eleni Hale
Words out my mouth Kathryn Lyster
Would haves Naomi Deneve
Yiayia Sibella  
picture of dragon

Spec Fic Writing Pt 3

By | News, Speculative Fiction

Writing mythic spec fic: 6 tips

You’re setting off on an epic quest. You plan to slash through jungles, slay monsters, summon storms, and conquer civilisations. But how do you get your readers to follow you? With a powerful story to capture and sustain their interest, they’ll happily share your journey. To help you pack, here are my favourite tips.

  • Sharpen your archetypes

Fantasy and folk tales buzz with magical archetypes that reflect common values (like angels) and taboos (like devils). Most readers instantly recognise a little girl in a red cloak wandering through a forest as vulnerable.

Universal symbols like towers, swords, and magic beans can trigger emotions and tie a story’s themes together. They can also serve as prompts for your plot, setting, and characters.

  • Careful where you aim that thing

Weaving archetypal themes and motifs into my writing adds oomph, right?

Well, yes, but don’t get heavy-handed. Loaded weapons are risky, and most potent when waved around vaguely as a threat, not fired gung-ho. So apply your archetypes sparingly. Add your own unique spin. And don’t mix your metaphors (I admit, this one’s tricky). 

  • Morph your monsters

Warning! In the treasure-house of symbolism lurks the monster cliché. Hackneyed themes and overused archetypes must be challenged. Keep your creatures quirky.

Sometimes all it takes to invert a well-known trope is a little twist, a refreshing slice of lemon in your story spritzer, like the trickster lioness in my Leo zodiac story Safari Blonde. Other times, extensive changes to the trope are necessary. Either way, upending the story makes it far more interesting.

  • Play God

Should I retell an old myth, or write a new one?

Rewriting might be simpler but call for more research. World-building from scratch might be more fun, but ground it in reality. I’m finding the eco-religion in my novel-in-progress doesn’t work without referencing real religions. I guess even God needs source material!

Mythology opens windows to the past. Writing alternate history allows huge creative license as long as you stay in factual boundaries. Skating these windowsills requires balance, but it sparks infinite possibilities.

  • Pull up your pantheons

I think of gods and goddesses as personified archetypes, each with a character and backstory. The sheer diversity of world deities and pantheons means options galore. My newest story involves the Celtic goddess Brigantia, who later became Saint Brigid.

One way to liven things up is to set a traditional myth or deity in a contemporary world, à la popular superhero movie. In my story The Halo Effect, the Greek god Morpheus and the Morpheus character from The Matrix help a drug dealer change his ways.

  • Plant the magic beans

Spec fic writers are uniquely placed to tackle big questions through myth and allegory, point out social inequalities, explore the past or future, and find magic in the mundane.

Embed an archetype in your plot, character, or setting, and watch your story grow into something fresh. When mythology, history, romance, adventure, and spirituality sprout a lush tale, that’s my idea of fiction heaven. What more could a reader ask for?

Nicole Sellers received a gold star from her primary school principal for a one-page sci-fi story about an underwater city. She went on to study creative writing at UOW, majoring in poetry. While raising children she earned a living as a tarot reader, massage therapist, herbalist, and yoga instructor, and continued to write. Nicole’s poems and articles have appeared in Plumwood Mountain, Spiral Nature, International Light, the anthology Grieve 6, and elsewhere. Her novella was recently shortlisted for publication in Aussie Speculative Fiction’s Drowned Earth series. Patchwork Raven will release her zodiac-themed story as an illuminated manuscript in August, and she is a contributor to the forthcoming Story Hunters speculative fiction anthology. Nicole facilitates the HWC Belmont creative writing group. To find out more about her work, visit https://www.nicolerainsellers.com/

Nicole Sellers, writing group facilitator
Flames from bonfire

Poetry Writing Part 5

By | News, Poetry
the last post    
in my last blog entry I listed a number of ‘modes’ for the composition of a poem the peripatetic, the here-and-now view, the political – the bearing witness mode (was where I got stuck) 

it seems like a hundred years ago I was in Hong Kong, worrying about Hong Kong… though we should still all be worried about Hong Kong 

… and now I’m home – and that is a very distracting way to be (more on that in a minute)… nevertheless I promised  a poem in the annotation mode 

what is it, you ask, a poem in the annotation mode? It is a response drafted on the page to an existing poem, already in print … i.e. it’s scribble in the margins you could type up later to make a poem and that new poem would have some relationship to the original poem from which you were working / to which you are responding 

a lot of people worry that this kind of thing will lead to plagiarism and of course it could if you were careless or that way inclined … my principle with this kind of work is however simply ‘in the presence so a poem comes’ i.e. spend time with good poems in order to make a good poem yourself 

…a lot of what I produce in the way of annotations is only vaguely connected with the original poem… however when I think there’s a chance of an actual response I could call a response, then I put the word ‘after’ at the top of the page I’m working on 

let me give you a quick example almost at random from out of the mighty pile of already annotated books of poems that need attention (need their annotations typed up to see if they can be poems), seeing the word ‘after’ at the top of the page I picked from Shuntaro Tanikawa’s lovely little Vagabond book (thanks Michael Brennan and friend) a little poem called ‘Mere Words’, which starts 

Having turned into mere words, 
the mountain is dimly squatting. 
The port under an overcast sky 
is thinking of something. 

and so now, for you, let’s see if I can conjure up a poem from my annotations responding, more or less, to this idea

 

after the words 

things, happenings
silences more brutal

dinner
lunch
breakfast
back to sleep

came from words to here
but fold in
armed with sweet saying

somewhat less the record shows
like a world spun once too many

breath after breath staged
so much of it has gone on in words
despite
over
and
under

mute truth of themselves
reflected in a page
pale air

there’s nothing proud about the mountain
and it’s all standing still
testament – our admiration

but everything on it’s moving, alive
thinking – where next, where’s home

that’s pretty close to just the notes of the page
but I’ve played with their order a bit
… it’s now a draft to come back to
and I think I can call it a response because it does speculate along the lines Tanikawa was speculating
…
so I think this gives you an idea of how the annotation mode could work for you
… maybe you want to respond to my response?
you see how this is a kind of open-ended conversation?

I guess the thing about the modes is that the best thing is to invent your own
if you can afford to…

people who say that they don’t read other people’s stuff cause they don’t want to be influenced … well, they’re not really poets… to be a poet you have to be constantly studying the craft… the only way to be a poet is to make poems; the only way to make poems is to be constantly learning from everything around you and especially from the poems that are everywhere around you if you care to listen and look …

and be discerning of course… remember there’s more good poetry being written in the world today than ever before (reams of it every day) and as a natural consequence, there’s more bad stuff too… it would be caveat emptor if anyone ever got paid for the stuff

*

anyway with being at home, here’s the thing, I did truly distract myself… for instance
I wrote a recipe poem which I was going to include here, but there wasn’t room…
but that led me to think what a nice anthology that could be … a collection of recipe poems by Australian poets… one thing leads to another… and remember Sterne –‘digression is the sunshine of the text’…
because I kept coming back to the to-do list … very important … that’s how I remembered to do the annotation work for you…
and
here to finish
(and to emphasise the importance and value of distraction
and how often you should just go with it)
are two drafts (from last night and this morning)
which are simply in the here-and-now observation mode
(or observation and action, I could say, in the case of the fire poem)

1307
pile burning 
(midwinter thing)

little sun we make
to chase around
and backs to
can revolve

could chase a fire like that all day

better to start with dusk
clocks gone home

hard to know what to let
no hard edges here
but that the day runs out

watch
stand smoke aside
and mainly just be watchful
breeze attentive
have a bucket for the symbol

you don’t want this in summer
don’t want the fuel around

the pile gets going
you think
what can we add?
what has to go?

stars fall
and stars spin up
(other poems are full of them ­–
throw old poems on)

it falls in on itself
needs feeding

we find a leant-up
decaying door

I suspect original
the 1948 door
through which cows must have come
generations

a little ragged round the edges
damp
but the fire was hot
we threw it on

that door was a way in
we burnt it
now it’s gone 

adventure in feathers

and overcast, no matter

well into the morning
when this swamp hen
takes to the roof
one is tempted to think
because it is there

what use a roof to almost flightless?
 pond traipser –
the white-arsed swampy Jesus of birds

one wonders if the tribe will follow
but no, a solo show

they haven’t much of a tune
but you could always hear them
issues of territory, love quarrels

now a clatter too

at least this one is
who holds the roof
for decoration

and from there
gets up in the touching tree
half flutter
could say climbing

precarious to perch
its moment swaying

then
nothing like a thunderbolt
it glides
to pond

spectacular
at least to me

*

now, if after all of this you want more of me, you can go to my website
it’s kitkelen.com
or find me on facebook
or on the 366 blog
https://project365plus.blogspot.com/
where you can find draft stuff I and others put up every day
or howsabout you buy a book of mine
like for instance my latest
Poor Man’s Coat – Hardanger Poems 
https://uwap.uwa.edu.au/products/poor-mans-coat-hardanger-poems
or
if you’re interested in taking the complete course in poetry writing
you could grab yourself a copy of my workbook
Throwing Words Together – 101 Poetry Making Exercises
(rare as hen’s teeth)

at a pinch you can message or e-mail me
at KitKelen@emeritus.umac.mo

don’t’ you hate the way poets promote themselves so shamelessly?
but really what’s a bear to do?
bump bump bump on the back of the head
coming down the stairs
there must be another way
but now he’s introduced to you

think back
Pooh says ‘I do remember, and then when I try to remember, I forget’
Draft of poem - part of the process - by Kit Kelen
Bonfire from distance
Flames from bonfire
an image of Fire
picture of poet Christopher Kit Kelen
man reading grieve anthology

Grieve Writing Competition Opens Valentine’s Day

By | Grieve, News

The Grieve writing competition opens every year on Valentine’s Day – you know the measure of your love by the weight of your loss.

Grief is the human response to change and loss in our lives, such as the death of someone we love. It is a natural and normal response, which has a physical impact on our bodies as well affecting our emotions and our thinking. This statement is from Good Grief, an Australian organisation that awards a $250 prize in the annual Grieve writing competition.

One of the programs that Good Grief delivers is the Seasons for Growth program to children and young people who experience significant life changes. The aim is to normalise the experience of grief like giving them clear, factual, age-appropriate information about the loss they have experienced; help build protective factors and minimise risk factors that affect mental health.

If you are interested in facilitating the Seasons for Growth program you must be an accredited companion which involves a 2 day training program – learn more about the training program on the Good Grief website.

 

 

Kit Kelen's sun image with people watching

Poetry Writing Part 3

By | News, Poetry
Poetry process by Professor Christopher (Kit) Kelen 
 
and what a week it’s been, poetry process enthusiasts… there we were, up above the Arctic Circle, experiencing the midnight sun … first on land (over the water)

… so mainly I was inspired to draft just from where I was, just writing things as they were in the moment for me:
1286
midnattsol
we went to see the midnight sun
8.vii.19
Teigan - Hadsel Øye, Vesterlån

we went to see the midnight sun
on the other side of an island nearby
we went to Teigan - on Hadsel Øye,
in Vesterlån it is

so much brighter than you’d imagine
bounces along
runs a ring
delivers pinking stillness
like breath held for a non-event

flowers make the most of it
especially tiril tunga
somebody’s tongue
caught the colour

this sun leaves winged ones wondering
but a traffic in fish goes on

throws shadows on turf roofs, on the water
fields of fresh mown, lit green, yet to yellow
such shadows in the mountains
tree casting this way, that

this is the everyday unending
one cannot but be awed

the moon was up for company
paled at the very thought

and must not look at the main attraction
or see it in everything seared

of course I forgot sunglasses
ironic at the time because
I was writing a story about them
but it’s well past eleven and you wouldn’t think

here comes the Hurtigruten/ Coastal Express
in night that is not

and there’s another little vessel
flag of a country no one will know
comes chugging into view
what luck to have set sail in this

a herringbone calligraphy
feint moon ended

this is the way beyond the world

in through windows hereabouts
and shone along a beach

as if this last first searing
set islands here on fire

now east and west were rise and set
in all the innocence I knew

it’s not as if this makes any sense
but somebody knows how it goes
anyway everyone here’s up and doing

still there’s so much to do!
so many falling down farms and houses
embarrassed, all hours show
this sun still stands
makes spectacle
of itself
and of us all

part of the village came out specifically

lazy grass bears lounge under their ledges
the old troll woman high over scree
is still trying to get some sleep

it was the sun would never set
rising for us now

as if a fire were lit beyond
to dip and lift
that we’d behold
sky of changes

as if
as if
the sea was set
the sky was cast a mood

and some for mauve
for azure
run out of colours to call

a little east west bounce along
to run a little world around

how few were watching this
and did the midnight sun see us?

a question you’d sleep off

all along it was behind us
following the car
except when out in front
alongside

and on the up and up from now

a magic in the golden glow

rests on a roof as good as sleep
brighter than the dream

*

then a few days later at sea, though the sun seemed higher at the lowest there
 
1290
midnight sun at sea
11.vii.19
on the Hurtigruten’s MS Richard With
Svolvær (Lofoten) and onto the Norway Mainland

The sun was shining on the sea, 
It made the billows bright, 
And this was odd, because it was 
The middle of the night.
        Lewis Carroll

aboard and in pyjamas
now we have 360°
waving shores smell fish

up all night first time for years
for this beyond romantic

slow coasts in a shining

we of the underwisp
called to cloud
among mountains
see

first come so far was young Pytheas
now the ancients have come to bucket this too

midnight on deck
moment seared into seeing

the pinking dip
and up sun daisy
call it day again

morning, so to say, dozes with fog
an hour of breakfast still

come through Pillars of Hercules

which of us
will be so remembered
from a text forever lost?

how many cameras will fall overboard?
that’s luck in a wishing sea


*

Kit Kelen's sun image with people watching
Kit Kelen with poetry drafting book and sun behind
travel is important to the process of poetry, but perhaps ironically in the sense of demanding presence to one’s here-and-now

and now I’m in Macao, on my way home, and a little jetlagged on the way…. more later on jetlag and Macao and how these inspire poetry…

but meanwhile Geoff Page’s review of my Poor Man’s Coat Hardanger Poems appeared in a place I will not mention, so I drafted Geoff a poem about my process in response:
1293
my déjà voodoo
 
a little poem for Geoff Page

won’t ever be finishing itself
a piece of work one might say
but cut and come again
head like the song you know already

tree and stone and stream and sky
out of the blue clouds come over
just for instance or music sets off
hard line through a fog of chord

all the familiar crew
these rag and bone creatures
were sometime my pets
run the circus now

it’s only in echoes we live
only through the mirror we find what’s to give

midnight’s that glimmer
where the dream forgets me
leave inklings where I’ve been, will be
I can’t remember here

a stretch so slow of the imagination
might not notice you’re among
the most familiar things
where always you have been before

in picnic woods of somebody’s porridge
old friend sunlight shows
glad that you’ve already met so many
I hope you’ll come again

all of us are waiting here
that the journey might begin

*
There were also pieces last week about Norway and the oil (before and after), a kind of a long life cycle poem about a Norwegian (Nynosk) kids’ rhyme, a picture book text for kids about magic sunglasses and going through a troll and coming out the other end, and also a little piece for my field guide to Australian clouds…

and then there’s the list of what I thought I had been supposed to be doing at the beginning of the week…

perhaps also I should say more about drawing and painting and how these relate to writing on a daily basis…

but obviously we don’t have space for that here right now
… the point is that the process is full of surprises!

Christopher (Kit) Kelen (客遠文) is a well-known Australian poet, scholar and visual artist, and Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Macau, where he taught Creative Writing and Literature for many years. Kit Kelen’s poetry has been published and broadcast widely since the seventies, and he has won a number of prestigious awards over the years, including an ABA/ABC Bicentennial Prize in 1988; and in 1992 an Anne Elder award for his first volume of poems The Naming of the Harbour and the Trees. He has also won Westerly‘s Patricia Hackett Prize and placed second in Island’s Gwen Harwood Prize. In 2012, his poem ‘Time with the Sky’ was runner up in the Newcastle Poetry Prize, an award for which he has been frequently shortlisted. In 2017, Kit was shortlisted twice for the Montreal Poetry Prize and, for the second time, won the Local Award in the Newcastle Poetry Prize. In 2018, he was longlisted for the ACU and University of Canberra’s Vice Chancellors’ prizes. Volumes of Kit Kelen’s poetry have been published in Chinese, Portuguese, French, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Indonesian and Filipino and Norwegian. The most recent of Kelen’s dozen English language volumes is Poor Man’s Coat  Hardanger Poems, published by UWAP in 2018.