Definitions

Several weeks ago, I took a trip down to Canberra to stay with a friend and work on a collaborative poetry project.

While I was there, I also wrote this poem ‘Definitions,’ based off a conversation we had which featured the throwaway line, ‘Love is overeating and resentment.’ It got me thinking about that infernal love thing, and I started writing – trying not to think at all, to put down my first instinctual response to the question.

Later, I discovered Telescopic Text, and thought it would be a perfect fit. After some trial and error, this simple electronic poem was the result. Check it out here: Definitions.

Strangely Funny II Anthology Cover

So, a couple months back I found out one of my short stories, “Caryard Jack”, had been accepted into a genre fiction anthology called Strangely Funny II.

And today, I just spotted the cover art:990608_orig

 

 

Which excited me no end, so I thought I’d share it. Being able to write and sell a funny short story about an ancient bisexual necromancer – hell, even just write that sentence – is pretty fucking great, as far as I’m concerned. I can only hope the weirdness continues to bloom, so here’s to writing many more, and increasing diversity in SFF genres 🙂

Periphery Vision

So, after watching Richard Linklater’s superb Boyhood last night, I left the theatre drowning in nostalgia, and it reminded me of a performance piece I wrote nearly a year ago now. As a would-be performance poet terrified of actually performing, I realised in a few months I’ll be 25, and won’t even be able to share it. Not as it is now anyway. So here it is, in all its earnest messiness. 

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There is a magic in storytelling that reaches out and transforms the world around us. All it takes is a single word, a single story, a singular character that speaks with our voice, and we are forever changed, forever one step to the side and a little askew of everyone else. This is how we sometimes catch expressions flitting across faces; a hint of fear, the glint of a smile, this is how we can see what they’re running from. Of course, it’s different for everyone and we lack the ability to look back on our own, so we turn to other writers, to other poets, and other stories hoping to catch sight of the monster on our heels, of the expression on our faces.

I live in dread of the day that I say, or think or hear the words: I’m too old to read about fairies. Too old for pages with colour, too old for wonder and delight. I know what’ll happen, I’ll look around and ask, where did all the stories go? Then I’ll remember I left them behind that old sock draw in the attic lined with yesterday’s dust, dust that seeps through cracks in wooden panels placed in perfect rows by my grandfather. Some mornings, I look up hoping to catch sight of it sprinkling down, to know that I am still nourished by stories, by what came before.

It’s easy to forget the things that shaped us, easy to get lost in the white roaring rapids of present currents. But there are rips in the everyday, that can pull us under on an idle Tuesday, and there beneath the surface we will find the things we let go of that never let go of us. Like my first dog Princess, that was who she was, pretty and pristine, but we came to call her Houdini because she delighted in outfoxing us all, in careening through the wild and exploring the world. She was a trailblazer, but one day she blazed too far, out of sight, and I never saw her again.

These are the things I lost: my cousin, taken too soon by the streets; my first crush, two houses down, we used to rollerblade by Old Kurrajong Road but her name escapes me now; my mother, to the drugs she can’t beat & the ghosts of men she can’t defeat. I hear them debating sometimes, or maybe that’s just the TV. My neighbour Wally and his daughter who took us to her church youth group even though we were Muslim. We played games in hallowed hallways empty of sermons & it was there I found faith for the first time. Found it, and lost it again, though I’m really not sure when.

I’m 24 this year, rounding the bend. My friends talk about reaching their quarter-life crisis and I think how mindless it is that we arrange milestones as disaster points.

I’m 24 this year, rounding the bend, and I find myself thinking about first times because I don’t have many left: my first breath, heaving between screams, my first sunset, first word, first punch, first kiss, first hurt, first friend, first right, first wrong, first fight, first song, first hug, and of course, first love. That last I appreciate the most, because I didn’t know I had it in me. Thought I’d never have it & having it is indescribable.

Losing it just as much.

My first dream was not a good one – I dreamed my mother burned my hand for receiving a bad letter from school. Of course, I didn’t know what dreams were then, or how cruel they could be. I was just a boy. To me, the line between what’s here, what’s Real and what’s not, was blurred. It still is and I’m thankful now but at the time, when asked why I was afraid to take a letter home, it meant I answered my teacher with a lie. My first lie & first truth, you see

My first dream was my first fear and first punishment all wrapped in one. I learned then and there the measure of sleep, the pain of what’s done, and the value of reality; I count that as my first lesson, first wake-up call. I’m 24 this year, rounding the bend, and I’m still learning this lesson over and over again, in catnaps between classes, in snatching at something better in the cracks between days. Days that stand shoulder to shoulder in blocking the way & locking you in a pattern that never ends.

I remember my first adventure, running through overgrown creeks searching for tadpoles in the wetness, watching the lizards in the weeds. Here in the seeds of yesterday, I remember the first time I swore at God, the first time I cried myself to sleep, the first time I slipped inside someone else – in a book, looking out through someone else’s eyes and discovering magic in pages, realising anew how tragic it is that we live only one life & even that in stages, in carefully segmented roles with clear cut lines about what’s real and what’s not, what’s possible, and what isn’t, what’s bad for you, and good for business, never mind that this addiction is a sickness & what we need is to stop, to take stock of where we’ve been, what we’ve lost, what we’ve seen and where we’ll be next.

Maybe these are all the elements that herald a –I refuse to use the word, to give value to the term ‘crisis’, it just gives you a license to act petty, to act small and mean and life’s too short for those kinds of scenes, it’s best to leave them on the cutting floor and instead compose a narrative that matters. I’m turning 24 this year and rounding the bend, so I thought I oughta take a moment to reflect, to report on this quarter, because there might not be another but if there is, I hope it’s a brother to the first, full of firsts, of beginnings, middles and ends, of growth and change, of struggle, of the familiar and the strange.

These are things that I have lost, people I have betrayed, moments I let go of that I find did not let go of me and for that, I am thankful as I round this bend and for just one moment, see them all extend behind me, my monsters, my fears, in the end, nothing more than memories wanting to be remembered.

Update!

What I’m Writing:

Firstly, I’m happy to report my novel has un-stalled, and I’ve broken through that wall in a major way. I’m back to being incredibly excited by the world, the characters, and the various different things I’m doing with the genre. I’m also putting together bits and pieces to plan ahead, and thankfully I’ve found a way to incorporate the first draft’s structure, with which I had so much success initially.

Other than the novel, I’ve written two short stories and a number of poems as well, most of which I’m quite pleased with, though some do need work. Lastly, I’ve begun to put together the structure for a children’s book, and yes, this is the least number of things I’ve had on my plate for a while.

What I’m Editing:

Articles over at the relatively new and still blooming Speculative Post, a genre-fiction site consisting of SFF reviews and articles. I sometimes write reviews of my own there, and over at Ranting Dragon.

I’m also a fiction submissions reader over at literary journal Verity La, an exciting place for brave and strange fiction and poetry.

What I’m Reading:

A whole bunch of beautiful short story collections. Junot Diaz’s This Is How You Lose Her, which is gorgeous, lyrical, and refreshing; Rashomon, and Other Stories by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, which proves short stories 100 years old can more than match what’s being written today; George Saunders’ collection Pastoralia, which so far hasn’t bested the brilliance of 10th of December, but it’s early days yet; and the latest addition to this festival of short fiction is Damage Land: New Scottish Gothic Fiction edited by Alan Bisset.

I tend to carry all of these around in my bag so I can flicker between short stories and see what can grab and hold me, or whatever fits my mood. The novel I’m currently carrying alongside these, for a similar reason, is Stephen King’s 11.22.63. For the sake of brevity, I’ll leave out the poetry collections.

New Things for the Blog:

Look out for some guest posts! I’ve decided I’m sadly neglecting both this platform and my network of talented, interesting, up-and-coming creative people, so I’m planning on doing a few cross-overs and interviews in the interests of making this less about me, and more about us – this community of poets and artists I find myself among, doing everything they can to keep their dreams alive.

Question of the Day:

I’ve noticed that the popular writing platform Wattpad has been in the spotlight recently as a few authors that started there have been picked up by publishers. The number of readers is actually ridiculous, and the idea of putting work up there is very tempting. You could build up a following and use that as a base, either to self-publish, or to potentially pitch your ready-made audience to publishers and agents.

It’s also risky, because I suspect most publishers won’t be sold on the notion unless you’re on the insane end of the spectrum with 800 million reads (as in the case linked to above), which means you might end up just giving your work away for free. To say nothing of rendering it inadmissible to most competitions/prizes/etc. So, with that all said, the question remains: Is it worth it?