Thursday, May 28, 2009

Life Happens

A lot has happened in our lives over the last month including several funerals. Pisces came home from the third in less than two weeks and said "I'm all funeralled out." I know what he means. It has been very sad even though none of the deaths were unexpected.
But life goes on and while all this has been happening I've been working steadily away at Tom Collins House Writers' Centre. I'm very happy with the amount of work I've done - much better than I would have expected considering the external stresses and interruptions. The sequel to my first novel has reached the 45,000 word mark and I've also done some serious editing and rewriting of other work. All well and good you might say but it has brought home to me that trying to work full-time at home is not so easy unless you can go off somewhere that normal life can't invade. I am deeply envious of those writers who have a sanctum away from the house.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Rain Rain Come and Stay

I was sitting in my room at Tom Collins House this morning gazing out the window - having just discovered I had a plot hole about five miles wide so I had to rewrite a whole section instead of moving forward - when the sunlight disappeared. Rain had been forecast but we all know that doesn't signify much, does it. I wouldn't want to be a weather forecaster. Would you? Talk about a thankless task! Anyway I assumed clouds were passing overhead and went back to work.

Then I heard it. The sweetest sound in a dry land. The first soft kiss of rain on a corrugated iron roof, gentle as a caress. I went out onto the veranda to welcome it. It's been so long since we had any rain and we've just had the driest April on record. I couldn't help it.

"Hello, rain," I said. "I'm pleased you've come."

The drops stuttered. For a horrible moment I wondered if that was it, if the shower had finished, but no, it was only gathering strength to become steady soaking rain.

As it built up kookaburras burst out in a fanfare of laughter - it seemed they too were welcoming the rain. They started in the high branches of a eucalyptus tree just outside the door then moved in a graceful swoop to the very top of the enormous Norfolk pine opposite. I heard them for the first time yesterday afternoon as I was about to leave but they were so high and the sun was so bright I couldn't see them. Today, up so high, they looked like miniatures of themselves, bathing among the top most branches and laughing raucously all the while.

I was surprised - mainly because it is so long since we had rain - at how its scent filled the air. First there was a hint of freshness that turned to the unique aroma of dry wood being doused in water. Then as the rain continued, came the perfume of the wet Australian bush - damp earth, eucalyptus leaves and moist air. Wonderful.

The builders at work on the restoration of Matty Furphy's house have a radio on - its "easy listening" music a counterpoint to the birds all of whom have come out for a noisy bath, the background swish of cars on the wet road and the pat pot pat of raindrops on dry leaves.

The rain lasted about an hour but we need more before it will do much good. The ground is so dry streamlets carried most of it down into the hollow.

And when I got home Pisces was out in the front garden among the parched plants cleaning out the bone dry drain. Not one drop had fallen here.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Of Work and Funerals

I had a really productive week at TCH with about seven thousand words added to the WIP plus getting the structure sorted so it works better and some general tidying up. I'm well pleased with that but would be happier if I hadn't been laid low with a bug all weekend which I'm still struggling with today. Still with only four hours available today I managed to get down around 700 words, update the character list and fix the map. This has been bugging me for months and given my characters wander over a vast area having a map to work from is critical. So not so many words but much else of use and relevance.

The reason for there only being four hours at the writers centre was there was also a funeral to go to today. The father of one of my oldest friends has passed away. I feel rather surrounded with death and dying at the moment with friends and family suffering serious or terminal illness. It has made me think about a lot of things and involved considerable reassessment of my life. It has also made me think about how we as a society live our lives.

Within living memory it was common for babies to be born at home attended by a midwife or a general practitioner if there was reason to assume that there might be a problem with the birth (or when a father-to-be panicked). Obstetricians were only available to those with considerable money. The better off women might go to a lying in hospital usually run by a midwife with a doctor on call but the majority of babies came into the world in their mother's bed in their future house. Later, when they grew old and infirm, they would be taken care of in the family home to eventually die in their own bed surrounded by their families.

Contrast this with the way we live today. We are born in hospital - the new family birthing suites may be pleasant but it's not home - and babies are routinely induced for reasons of convenience (for medical staff or the parents) and when we die it's most often in a hospital, not our own bed in our own home.

It seems to me that somehow we have lost the continuity and rhythm of life that we used to have. We hand over responsibility to others or in some cases have it taken away from us. As a result the natural processes of birth and death become shrouded in some degree of mystery and we lack confidence in our ability to deal with these events. Many people never see a dead person in their life time. Surely this is wrong. Death comes inevitably to us all and we should not pretend it doesn't.

I'm not suggesting that we go back to "the good old days" necessarily. I've lived long enough to know that for all the good parts of those days there were many not so good and the same will apply to those looking back on this time. What I guess I would like to see is an acceptance that birth and death are parts of life, where we acknowledge that there is a time for life to come to its end and that there is less interference in that natural process.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Ditmar Nominations Are Out

Congratulations to all who have been nominated.

The complete list is here but I'm especially pleased to see Robert Hood and Margo Lanagan, tutors at Clarion South 2007, nominated in several places, and Peter M. Ball and Jason Fisher, who were among the Clarion South 2007 contingent, nominated in Best New Talent.

I hope I'll be forgiven a little parochial but there is a strong Western Australian representation too including in Best Novel section Hal Spacejock: No Free Lunch Simon Haynes, Best Collected Work 2012 ed. Alisa Krasnostein and Ben Payne, Black: Australian Dark Culture Magazine ed. Angela Challis (also nominated for Best Achievement) and The Starry Rift ed. Jonathan Strahan and Shane Jiraiya Cummings and Grant Watson both nominated in William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review.

Water Rebates - Going, Going, Gone

Is it just me or is the fact that Perth is having one of the driest Aprils on record, the Water Corporation is pleading with us not to water our gardens even the permitted twice a week and the Gnangara Mound, which supplies approximately 60% of Perth's drinking water, is drying up at the same time as the State Government has decided to axe the rebates on water saving products, including rain water tanks, bizarre?

The rationale, according to the Government, is that they are no longer needed. Here on the Water Corporation website are the details as announced on 9 April, 2009, by State Minister for Water, Dr Graham Jacobs.

I'm not sure exactly when they would be needed more. In my view when there is a drying climate - and it seems obvious that it is drying - that is exactly the time to encourage people to purchase water saving products. Things like - oh I don't know - rain sensors, subsurface irrigation systems, swimming pool covers, flow regulators, grey water reuse schemes, water efficient washing machines, domestic rain water tanks and domestic garden bores. Oh that's right, they were giving financial incentives for all those things and, as of 1 July, 2009, they're not.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Day One at TCH

I arrived at 9:05 am and left at 4:45 pm and I was so involved I kept on while I was eating my lunch.

It truly is amazing how much you can do if you have no interruptions. Today I finished - at least to first draft stage - the first chapter of my current novel. I'm not sure what it will be called yet so as a working title let's go with MotS which is a combination of the initials of the original idea. I have already written around a third of MotS but although I knew what I wanted to say somehow the beginning had eluded me. Then a few days ago when I opened up the scrappy bits that constituted the file I saw how I could make them work together - and it did. I'd made a start on some of the plotting and structural planning over the weekend too so I had something to work with which helped.

I also managed to track down another story which I had researched and half written last year and then had managed to misplace the file on the computer. That's been bugging me for such a long time - and now I can get it finished.

So a productive day and I'm feeling industrious - and extremely tired although that is not the fault of the day's work. Darned TV last night. Just wouldn't turn itself off.