Publication!

Hey y’all,

I realise I’ve said this on most other social media platforms now, but I haven’t announced it here yet, and announcements like this never get old (for me), so here it is: I’m incredibly happy to report that my debut poetry collection, these wild houses, will be published next year by Cordite Publishing.

Cordite, while a small press here in Australia, is well known for putting out beautiful books of poetry and I can personally attest to the brilliance of managing editor, Kent MacCarter, so I couldn’t be more pleased to be working with him on my collection.

All of which is to say, sorry if I’ve been a little quiet on the blogging front, but you can rejoice at least that I haven’t been wasting my time. I can’t wait to put this book out into the world, and hear your reactions to it.

I hope, too, that you’ll continue to follow me on the strange meandering path that is poetry.

~ Omar

Celebratory Poem

So, I couldn’t wait till Thursday to share this, because it made me happy, and happiness is a rare and fleeting thing in my world: I woke up to find I’d received over 1,000 followers on this blog! Which is kind of crazy, since only a month ago I had about 150, tops.

1000

I’d gotten used to the idea that very few people were reading my weekly rambles about poetry, and that it would remain that way, but I guess I was wrong. Here’s hoping it continues to grow and more and more of the poetically inclined find their way here. In celebration of all this, and in thanks to you fine people and possibly-bots, I thought I’d give you a poem I wrote a few weeks ago. It’s just a little one, and I never know what to do with the little ones, so this is as good a use as any. I hope you like it.

None Of Us

Nobody cares about poetry
my poetry professor said.
Nobody appreciates the band
either, the lead singer said.
Nobody notices the backup dancers
the dancers said, not to mention
the choreographer, or the roadies,
the technicians, the bored IT guys
and girls. Nobody loves their father
as much as fathers want them to
or loves their mother as much as mothers
need them to. Nobody cherishes actors
until they’re gone and in black and white
on a memoriam screen. Nobody writes
about writers except writers and failed writers;
nobody thanks the cooks. Nobody wants
to be a farmer, we just want to eat.
Nobody thinks, nobody thinks, nobody thinks
about any of this
but damn do the flowers get their due.

Dear Reader

Dear Reader,

I don’t have a poem today, and for that I am sorry. I feel like my chest is a minefield and sometime yesterday, I unwittingly stepped on one, and my everything has been scattered by the blast. My heart would give any veteran’s game knee a run for its money, as far as being utterly fucked on some days, then fine for stretches. There’s no explanation for it. Some days, it’s like shrapnel rattling around in my ribcage and with each move, with each thought, another small cut is sliced and I can’t stop the bleeding.

I spent most of yesterday in a breathless haze, panic clawing at my chest. Imaginary arguments choking my throat with the unsaid. I don’t know why I fear confrontation so much; nothing anyone has ever said could be as wounding as what I hurl at myself, be it through a figment’s mouth or my own thoughts. At about 8pm, I staggered out of the house and into the cool cloudy night, trying to breathe. I needed to go for a long walk. Long walks are my saviour, they always have been. I’m a tall guy, and there is very little that can frustrate me more than not being able to give my inner urgency voice through freedom of movement, through long strides that eat up the ground.

People always joke about seeing me out walking. My cousin will say, ‘I saw you Terminating your way up the street,’ and laugh, or someone will say I saw you walking up this highway, or ‘what do you mean you were walking in this neighbourhood at 3am? Are you crazy?’ With my family, this will usually devolve into an argument about how I should get a license already. They don’t understand that I need to walk, I need to be in a large open space, I need to be moving, because if I’m still for too long, all these thoughts and words and hurts will collide together and the detonation will leave me stunned and prone for days. Weeks, maybe.

So, I’m out on the street in Ashfield, it’s 8pm, it’s cloudy and cool and lovely. I’m thinking about New York, where I spent most of the past four months. I’m not thinking about the literary events, or the spread of lights, the infinity of colour, movies, celebrities, or crazy people I encountered, or lovely people, or whatever — I’m thinking of the walk I took every day, along the FDR by the East River. I was so serene in New York, so calm, so unaffected by the things I’m normally affected by and I didn’t know why, couldn’t explain to myself why I felt so good, despite my usual tiredness and inability to sleep, until now. Now I know.

If you haven’t been there, let me describe it: it’s basically a dedicated walkway that stretches miles. Not a sidewalk with constant stoppages and lights and traffic, but a walkway for people to stroll by the river and the parks, for cyclists and joggers too. On one side there are public basketball courts, athletic track rings, etc, and on the other is the ever-restless blue of the river. The bridges. I lived by East Broadway, right across from this walkway and every day, and sometimes the nights too, I would walk from there up to 18th St, then down and eventually to Union Sq, before heading back. A walk of about 8km, and I would do it twice some days. People often ask me what I was doing in New York and I feel so guilty, so ridiculous about this that I don’t often mention it, but aside from writing, all I would do is walk.

Walk so far without breaking, so far without needing to stop, my thoughts unfurling with music, a pleasant exhaustion seeping through my muscles — my god, it was wonderful. Forget fitness. Forget everything but the pleasure of thoughtlessness, the beauty of existing in a world of intuition and reaction. It is no wonder I wrote so much poetry along the banks of that river, or that it washed into so much of my writing; it saved me again and again and again, day in, night out, the Williamsburg Bridge arcing over to Brooklyn, its strung out Christmas lights gleaming like shiny baubles beneath the real brilliance of stars. When I think about how much I want to return to New York, so very much of it is because of that walk, that river, and how can I say that to anyone without sounding utterly mad?

Except to say that the restlessness of the river is the restlessness of my blood, except to say that when I am still, it is as if I have been log-jammed and the pressure is building, building, building and god, I need to move again before I suffocate. So I’m outside, it’s 8ish, it’s cool and cloudy and my nose is starting to run, but I’m doing the walk anyway because there’s no real alternative. I call this the Francis walk, oddly enough, because it’s the same path I take to my friend Francis’ house and that’s important purely because I’ve done the walk enough times that I don’t need to think about where my feet are going. My mind can float free, can rush and roar in the dark canopy of trees, can swerve into the tail-lights of the cars swishing by, can pause for a moment in the silhouette of the man on his porch looking out at the Arab guy swiftly walking by.

This walk is no comparison to the New York walk. Firstly, the street is suburban, tree-ridden, and without much in the way of street-lights, so I’m forever stumbling out onto the road, afraid of walking into the various spiderwebs I know cling from branch to mailbox. Some of them are only in my mind. Most of them, in fact. That doesn’t stop me from rushing onto the road whenever sudden certainty erupts that I’m about to become ensnared in the easily torn web of a spider; I’m an arachnophobe and I should do more about this debilitating fear of the scuttling, eight-legged eight-eyed symbol of death, but I’m a coward at heart and I have too many other fears, too many other hurts I’m trying to deal with right now. I wonder what the drivers must think about me, safe and still in their boxes, as their headlights flare blindingly to identify the large shape that just entered their field of vision–like, what the fuck is he doing?

I wonder too, in those moments, if this is what the deer feels, if it glories in flexing its muscles, in being so fleet of foot or hoof or whatever, in flashing through foliage, leaping over obstacles, in coming as close to soaring as any land-bound wingless thing; if its heart stutters and stops on the black tarmac, the headlights twin suns, its everything whitened, blinded. And then, if it’s lucky enough, enjoys the resumption of flight. I staggered like a drunk man from one side of the road to the other, my choices based on whichever side had less traffic at the time, only occasionally retreating to the false comfort of the sidewalk. Luckily, it’s a long straight road and I can see for some way in either direction. I pass by schools and fields and roundabouts until I come to a highway in Canterbury and now, finally, here is a stretch without trees so I can walk it in a straight line without fear, without stopping very much, and I begin to breathe better.

Like now, in fact, writing this — I began twenty minutes ago, and in the furious dance of fingertips on keyboard, I gave my thoughts an outlet, I let the river flow its maddening flow and slowly, so agonisingly slowly, the constriction across my chest began to ease, to unfurl, and I can breathe now, I can slow down, I can pick up the patterns in the swirl of the water, the ink; I can liberate the debris. I know what’s happened this week because it’s happened before. Not just the tragedy at the cafe in Sydney, the resumption of fear-driven narratives re: Muslims, race, and refugees, not just the small idiotic household concerns I’ve been putting off, or the stresses about money and rent and getting a “real” job again that isn’t writing, that pays more than the occasional freelance piece. Not just these things, or the various work I’ve sent out into the ether, little pieces of myself I’m awaiting judgment on, but so much more than that, more than I can possibly articulate at this moment–

My grandfather’s death. That’s one thing. I was thinking about this year as a whole–I wrote about it recently for a comedy piece–and while discussing it with my friend, I said to him, this has actually been a really good year for me. After all, I’ve had several poems published, two short stories, numerous articles, and was shortlisted for a prize, to say nothing of visiting Turkey and New York. A great year is what I thought, despite how utterly tragedy-ridden the year has been as a whole for the rest of the world, and I realised at the moment I said it that I’d forgotten my grandfather. He passed away only six months or so ago and he’d passed from my memory too; I’m surprised I didn’t keel over then and there beneath the surge of grief and guilt.

I forgot my grandfather; I forgot his huge ears, which I’ve inherited, albeit on a smaller scale; I forgot the smell of tobacco that inevitably clouded him; I forgot his wiry frame, the way his very sparseness of body seemed to imply a focus, like he was efficiency personified; the way his thick rectangular glasses glinted in the light; the feel of his grizzled cheek beneath my lips as I kissed him hello; seeing him out in the garden, as often to be found in greenery as he was sitting in front of the TV watching various B-grade Western action flicks with avid avian interest, despite not understanding English. I forgot him, and I think that is unforgivable and no amount of walking can change that. That’s part of it, of course–a big part–but there’s some vague, indefinable thing that binds these moments, these wounds, these hurts together, that allows them to never die, but to just sit waiting beneath the thin veneer of my skin, ready to erupt at any given point in time and I am so tired of it. So very tired, despite my mind rushing, rushing, rushing, even now.

So I didn’t find a poem this week to share, nor have I written the things I meant to write, but I will go for a not-so-great-but-just-good-enough walk today and maybe, just maybe, my body will catch up with my mind and I will be wholly tired, instead of forever out-of-sync, and able to get some rest. Able to relax. Able, in that moment of unwinding relaxation, to read poetry, to let it sink into the sediment beneath my river or be the bridge I walk across to the other side, and then, able to share it with you. To give you a chance for the same. So, I am sorry for all of that, but at the very least, I am breathing easily at last and that is a start.

Thursday Poems: Combustion by Sara Eliza Johnson

Firstly, let me just briefly promote the fact my poem ‘Birds of a Feather’ is up at Meanjin, one of Australia’s oldest and best literary journals. It’s not so easy for me to read now, having written it a year ago, but I’m still proud I got it out there, and people can read it now.

Okay, with that said, let’s celebrate another – and far more accomplished poem – Combustion by Sara Eliza Johnson. This is a delicate poem layered with powerful imagery which has stuck with me over the past few weeks. I love the sudden and jagged enjambment, the subtle dance of it moving across the page, the merging of detailed scientific information with the poetry of ordinary moments – peeling an orange, spreading honey on toast. In that sense, it is not unlike Tracy K. Smith’s work in Life on Mars.

I keep returning to this passage:

 if each atom
has a shadow—then the lilacs across the yard
are nebulae beginning to star.

Isn’t that just gorgeous? This gentle exploration of the interconnectedness of everything at an atomic level is nothing short of beautiful and odd, leading to unexpected places, a meeting of image and thought that twists and turns but always manages to adhere to the rich and resonant theme, to dig deeper.

In short, I highly recommend it and as ever, urge you to check it out for yourself.

Thursday Story: Rope by Joshua Harmon

No, you’re not mistaken, we have in fact crossed over into Friday and I am very late with this post. I see most of you have already checked in, so I’m very sorry for the delay. I was lying in bed, failing to sleep as ever, grappling with this horrible insomnia when I realised I’d forgotten to post something today.

Which is extra annoying as I’d planned to do something different this week, and this isn’t the best way to get started. Nonetheless, here we go. As you’ve no doubt deduced from the headline, I’ve decided to share a short story this week instead of a poem. This is because short stories are another of my passions, and in fact, of the two, is the elder — my first love, really. I also think there’s a lot of common ground with short stories and poetry, a lot of similar tools are used, and the same level of attention to detail, to craft and language, has to be employed.

Which brings me to ‘Rope’ by Joshua Harmon, who I was not at all surprised to see is also a poet. The story begins like this:

Our brother keeps a girl tied to a tree in the woods.

It’s an outstanding hook, a wonderful first sentence, and once it’s in you, it doesn’t let go. Its sparseness is all the more dramatic for its placement; the second sentence is an unwieldy thing, a full paragraph long on its own right. That second sentence doesn’t always work, at least not at the level the majority of this piece does – it’s overly long and sags a touch in the cluttered middle, but is still packed with detail and resonant rhythm, which is to say, the hallmark of poetry.

This is a deeply unsettling story about two sisters grappling with the unknown, with their own dark imaginings in a desolate setting on the edge of a forest — that great symbol of primal danger, of untamed wilds. You’re never quite sure how much of it is in their head, how much of it is real, and it’s a credit to Harmon that the suspense never lets up. Whenever there’s a risk of getting lost in the myriad other elements, the drama and tedium of humdrum life, he reels out the hook of that line about a girl tied to a tree in the woods, and it catches on the inside of your cheek, and he tightens the line and tightens the line and gradually brings you in.

To write great poetry, to write great stories, you first need to read them. In rare, beautiful cases, you get the best of both worlds at once.

This is one such case. Go and read it.

To Chapbook or Not to Chapbook?

In the midst of feeling a bit down about my prospects, with the interminable wait for my Canadian visa stretching on, I reached out to an old poetry professor to ask for some advice. I’d seen some chapbook competitions and prizes out there, nothing big, nothing splash, but it would be something, right? And I have whole swathes of poetry just sitting here, begging to be seen, to be heard and sung by many voices.

I could cobble together something out of that, I was sure. Something about the idea nagged at me though; I felt like I was cheating. As if a collection should either come together organically, sharing a common theme or aesthetic, or be built from the ground up around such. This didn’t feel right, and I was struggling with it. She advised me not to do it. Chapbooks are always coming and going, she said, and few make a mark, especially if they’re not from a reputable or well-known publisher.

Better to wait, to perfect the poems, gather together a first manuscript worth publishing, and to make an impact with its publication. Your duty is to the work, she said. She spent ten years putting together her first collection. Well, fuck. It was a bitter pill to swallow precisely because I knew she was right. Not that I have any intention of waiting 10 years, not by any stretch of the imagination, I’m not that far off, but I took her point.

It’s just incredibly frustrating when you’re putting yourself, and your savings, on the line to just barely squeak by and painfully produce art–to pull it from your blood and bone, from dream and memory–knowing there isn’t any money on the other end, no real payoff to speak of. I don’t have ten years, that’s for sure, I have this one year, at best, to live off my savings and hopefully finish my novel, or poetry collection, or anything, really. In the midst of all this, I had to remind myself why I do this, why I put myself through this strain day after day, night after night. Luckily, I’d already foreseen this need, and had a piece from a year ago to refresh my memory.

It’s a performance piece, and the formatting is screwy here, but fuck it.

Here it is anyway. Continue reading

Thursday Poems: Faint Music by Robert Hass

A few weeks ago, I enrolled in an online summer poetry course being held by the University of Iowa. Each week involves a different youtube talk by a respected poet, and various exercises and workshops based on said talk. The second week’s presenter was former US Poet Laureate Robert Hass. I had no idea who he was, but his dry wit and razor sharp wisdom really appealed to me, and I thought, ‘I have to get this guy’s books.’

Luckily, I happened across this poem, quite by accident, and now the desire to get his books has become an imperative. It is, in a word, staggering. A poem that tells a story, that has a powerful message, that is rich in situating detail, in placing you beneath the skin of the setting and allowing you to breathe in its atmosphere.

All this, and it’s beautifully composed too. It begins:

Maybe you need to write a poem about grace.

And somehow manages to only get better from there. This is a poem about music (and pain, life, humanity), so I urge you to pay attention to its own internal rhythm, to read it aloud. It renders even the most basic sentences musical, in gentle lifting loops you can catch the first strains of song.

He climbed onto the jumping girder of the bridge,
the bay side, a blue, lucid afternoon.

My favourite part is the ending, which hits like a catapult to the soul, and which I won’t spoil by posting here. I can only urge you to read it in all its majesty.

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In other news, I have a feature non-fiction piece in which I reflect on my grandmother’s dementia and the way my family dealt with it, over at Sajjeling, a nifty, independent site emphasising Arab-Australian narratives. Head on over to check it out. It is by no means my best-written piece; I was more than a little emotional in writing it, and part of me wishes I could go over it now with a red pen, but equally, there’s a truthfulness to that messiness which I would hate to erase.

Also, in the next few days, I’ll be launching a new semi-regular segment, Awesome People, wherein I finally tap into the network of wonderful, amazing individuals I know, and have them feature guest posts here to share a story or anecdote or anything really.

That’s all from me for now, so until next time…

Happy reading, all!

Scrubbed

Recently, I had quite the scare: my laptop shut down, and wouldn’t restart. Cue the horror, the endless waves of fear – yes, I have some major work saved elsewhere, but there’s a whole lot of writing I haven’t bothered to back up that could be lost forever. So, it was in a state of fragile calm that I ended up at the Apple store, not quite daring to hope (lest disappointment crush me).

Thankfully, I managed to save my writing, but the rest of my data was not so lucky. It was all wiped. At first, it was my music that occupied my mind most – or more accurately, the prospect of silence. Music is everything to me; it is the means by which I am able to exist in a languid dream-state throughout the day, to not be caught and hung up on the sounds of the everyday. The harsh cries of birds. The squawks and squeals of children, the braying cries of their parents. The honk of cars, the scream of tires, and hum of engines.

I take them out, these noises, and gently plug music into the gap; it is on chords I walk, it is to rhythmic beats I run. The sense of loss I felt was huge, all those beloved tracks, those writing-playlists. I paid no mind to whatever else was on my computer, the photos, movies, etc. Therein lay my biggest mistake, because it is that which consumes me now. See, I got my laptop back in the end, and didn’t have to spend $1200 on a new one, which is great, but it’s more complicated than that.

I hesitate to anthropomorphise a machine, but I have to say, this is not the same computer I gave in. I feel as though my laptop died, and did not come back. Or more accurately, that the digital self I’ve built over the past four years and imbued in the laptop, was killed. Scrubbed clean. My desktop looks strange, empty. My programs, Word, FinalDraft, sundry others, are gone. Nothing symbolises this emptiness more than Chrome, my favoured web browser.

For those of you unfamiliar with it, it tracks your most visited websites. If I were to type the letter ‘a’, for instance, it would immediately bring up either the ATP website, or AVClub. ‘S’ for Sydney Morning Herald, ‘t’ for Twitter, ‘h’ for Huffington Post, ‘n’ for New York Times. These were paths I’d trodden so often, I needed no more than a letter for Chrome to know where I was going. These busy online woods had roads I’d carefully cleared with repetition. Each place, each platform, had my details saved, my passwords.

It knew me, they knew me – the same way the dour Asian couple who run the local convenience store know me, and what I’ll buy each morning, after a year’s worth of routine – and now, they don’t. I’m a stranger online once again. Put in a letter, it has no clue what I’m doing, or where I’m going. This intangible familiarity is a concern for most people, I know, and I’d have said before this that I’m sympathetic to the many privacy / advertiser-based fears people profess.

Now, however, I’m a little less sure. I never realised just how much comfort I took from the incalculable small changes I’d wrought on my laptop, browser, etc, to personalise it, and the various ways it was all connected to my day-to-day life. I feel a curious lightness, too, however: my browser history has been permanently deleted, my online baggage is gone. Or at least, my connection to it has been interrupted. Enough to give me clarity on something that had become frighteningly comfortable, anyway.

If only there were a real-world equivalency, an ability to scrub old broken friendships, failed relationships, and the various detritus accumulated over years of life. To, at the very least, be temporarily relieved of the burden of memory. The prospect is both terrifying and alluring, and I can’t quite decide which I prefer right now; the familiar, the comfortably clear paths and known quantities, or the totally strange, the thick brambles and unknown. I suspect the answer is both. I want enough familiarity to be comfortable, but not be rote, and enough of the new to keep things interesting, to myself on my toes.

All of which is to say I’ve suddenly been forced to look anew at the way I use this machine, the way it learns of, and accommodates me, like any old friend. How much does your laptop or device know about you? How much have you tweaked it to suit your every peculiarity, your random whim? How many times do you trawl the same web pathways, and how open are you to changing, to casting off your habits and starting again?

One way or the other, all I’ll say is this: save everything you can, kids. At least that way you can pick and choose what to lose when the inevitable upgrade/crash occurs.

Still Kickin’

I feel like the title for this post should be ‘A Fresh Start’, but it feels odd to say that considering I’m turning 25, have two degrees, and no job. Just over a week ago, I quit my comfortable, well-paid position at Fox International Channels. Most people would consider that crazy; it’s a good job to have as a young man, a good start on the way to a good life.

This is how people live, and for them, it’s enough. A stable job with good money, a lover or more, then a home to call your own (if you’re lucky). Why the hell would anyone look at that and say, ‘No thanks, I’d rather live in constant uncertainty –  in a crumbling, shifting marketplace of words as likely to cut you as pay you.’ I don’t have an answer.

I don’t have an answer except to say that words are responsible for my life, are what spared me from a life of mediocrity totally unaware of the brilliance of literature suffusing the world. Totally unaware of poetry. I don’t have an answer because it’s not even a choice. It’s a necessity.

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So, I’m free of my 9-5 job, awaiting the results of my visa application to Canada, and generally trying to figure out the next step. It’s not all indolence and daydreaming, either, this decision to quit and focus on my writing. I get up at 9 every day; often earlier, as my body refuses to adjust to a better schedule. I’ve enrolled in an online poetry course being run by the University of Iowa, just to keep myself thinking about poetry in different ways, to expand my reading list.

I’ve also enrolled in a 5-week Picture Book course with the Australian Writers’ Centre, as I’m currently working on a children’s book. Funnily enough, 4.5 years of tertiary level writing studies never covered picture books. It was more than I wanted to pay, but I love this little story, this world I’ve created for kids, and I want to do it justice, so I bit the bullet and signed up. Hopefully I get to tell this inventive, multi-ethnic story, and help increase diversity in our children’s literature.

I also write / edit for two websites, as I’ve mentioned previously, so even before I get to work on my projects, I still have a whole lot on my slate. And no money coming in. Just my savings, and my own dedication to getting something finished before I run out of money, and have to start again.

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Happily, my ‘fresh start’ began on a good note. While the very first day did start out with a rejection for poems submitted three months ago, the next day I found out my poem ‘Mad Like A 12 Year Old Boy’ had been accepted into Carve Magazine’s Premium Edition. Carve publishes both online, and in print. In about a week or so, you’ll also see a non-fiction piece of mine appear on Sajjelingan independently run online magazine dedicated to recording and unravelling Arab-Australian stories.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I’ll be writing more freely, updating the blog regularly – including the debut of my Awesome People guest blogs – and hopefully finishing up my picture book. As I carry on with this poetry course, I may also start sharing the experience and knowledge gained there, so stay tuned, y’all.

Moving Forward

Recently, I read an interesting piece over at the always-wonderful Brain Pickings, titled ‘Show Your Work: Austen Kleon On the Art of Getting Noticed’. It was described as “a book for people who hate the very idea of self-promotion.”

I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say I hate it, but it definitely makes me uncomfortable. And I’m certainly guilty, to some extent, of keeping my stories and planned projects close to my chest. It’s not because I think the ideas are so brilliant that some nefarious individual out there will feel compelled to steal them and write the book/comic/TV show before I can, so much as it is that I think of writing as a fire.

Each story is a spark, is its own flame, and I have found that when telling friends and fellow writers what new blaze has sprung up in my mind, that some of the heat is let out. I lose some of the compulsion to tell the story because I have, in fact, just told it to someone. The act of telling itself has its own importance, and even though I’m only summing up, or running them through the structure, each time it seems the story itself is just that little bit more pallid when I next consider it — that little bit dimmer.

Of course, that’s not always the case. I’m always reassured when a concept, a character, continues to burn bright long after I’ve let a little of it out into the world. In that way, they can even act as true fires and expand with more air and fuel, as opposed to being kept in the darkness of my chest, to exist as my own private constellation of stars. Sometimes, I’ve even used this unnecessarily-prolonged metaphor as a good thing, a tool for productivity. When some unruly new story comes along, dazzling in its freshness, its recently birthed light, and demands to be told, demands I stop telling that old, now boring story, I can casually describe it to a friend and feel the compulsion fade just enough to keep working.

And yet, contrast this with the feeling of elation I have when sharing some minute success with friends — as with having my short story selected for the upcoming anthology Strangely Funny II— it’s not just elation, it’s as though I’m expanding. Nor is it just for successes either. It’s far more important for the failures, for all the times I fall. That sense of community, of shared struggle, is incredible, a true gift we don’t recognise anywhere near enough. Or at least I don’t.

And so, this is me recognising I need to be more open in all areas. Although I’ll talk about all these things more in-depth in future, I figure I can at least introduce you to what I’m doing and where I’m planning on going from here:

1) While I currently live and work in Sydney, I’ve just applied for a working holiday visa to Canada. I’m anticipating–should it be approved–moving to Toronto sometime in the next few months or so. Why have I quit a stable, decent job to relocate halfway across the world? Why set a grenade beneath the carefully built life you’ve led over the past few years? In short: because I’m hoping the blast is powerful enough to propel me further toward my goal of becoming a published author.

People look at me as though I’m mad when I tell them I’m going so far just to live and focus on my writing. Just for the joy of it. I want–for as long as I’m able to financially– to write a lot and work a bit, instead of work a lot and write a bit, as I have been for the past few years. That necessitates leaving the rut of full-time work behind, and taking the leap into the unknown.As Ray Bradbury said (and he’s yet to lead me wrong), “jump off cliffs and build your wings on the way down.”

2) I’m working on a Young Adult novel that could be described as Gangs of New York with magic, set in a surreal alternate future. There are a million things I want to describe right now, but if it’s pared down to its most fundamental elements, it’s a story about a boy reeling from more wounds than he knows he has, trying to survive on brutal streets, and the choices he faces along the way. The rest is just window dressing (really interesting, evocative, magical window dressing with outstanding characters packed to the brim with hope and horror, myth and wonder).

3) Said novel has stalled, if I’m being honest. The current draft, while easily among the best writing I’ve done, was written because my novel-writing professors last year told me to push myself, not because I had a plan. The previous draft had a clear plan and I zipped along it with purely functional writing. Whereas now, despite the higher quality, I am adrift. I need to take some time now and really outline a coherent structure for this new direction, because this story, this world, continues to excite me –as it has done for years now.

I’ve gone on for longer than anticipated, so I’ll leave it at that. There’ll be more details and things to come, I hope — maybe even an excerpt or two — and in the meantime, I continue to potter about with new ideas, poems, and short stories. It’s never-ending, this storytelling disease, and I couldn’t be more thankful.

Until next time, happy writing!