Sunday, October 30, 2011

[short + sweet] happies


1. huge thunder claps and heavy, heavy rain.
2. finishing a book I've been reading for a-g-e-s.
3. Sunday afternoon road trips to the coast.
4. an old Greek man singing and mafia bosses dancing along.
5. clearing emails from my inbox.
6. happy LiveJournal comments.
7. family coffee dates.
8. gifs of my little niece eating her own hand.

What's on your happy list today?

Friday, October 28, 2011

[short + sweet] living life

Mary Oliver wrote the “instructions for living a life:” Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it...

I like taking photos, I like writing, and I like telling people about things that I find. I like telling stories on blogs, because truthfully, it’s the best way I know how to.

It's the final(s) countdown:



Now that we're all singing the same song*, let me say hi. Hi. Let me also apologise for my almost-week-long absence from blogville. Like Spongebob said, it's The Final(s) Countdown here, and I am full blast plowing through two 3000-word essays, two 1500-word short stories, a working journal, and several shorter essays. I have three more weeks of this followed by two weeks of relative ease (just one essay of 1250 words, I think; Henry V, you better watch your back), and then it's over tra la la! for another year.

Running through that list might sound like I take some morbid sort of delight in these impending deadlines, but writing it out actually makes the tasks feel smaller and more manageable. Nevertheless, it's at the all-encompassing tail end of the semester, so my posts over the next few weeks are probably going to be more of the short (definitely) and sweet (hopefully) variety. Just pictures and short words here and there, occasionally. I might also put Conversations on hold until school's over. BUT, this doesn't mean I don't love your comments. So very far from the truth. I do -- I love them a lot. And if you ask questions, I'll reply in a comment myself.

Christmas also feels like it's getting closer, and that makes me so excited. I'm eleven years old, alright? I've started shopping and making lists and I am so looking forward to the idea of nearly ALL my family gathering together for a little summer reunion sometime after Christmas. I don't welcome the humidity, but I welcome everything else that Summer brings. Roll on!

*thanks, Spongebob; I never knew you were the frontman for Europe.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Project 52: twenty

A little note about 52 moments, here at week twenty: I haven't been taking pictures specifically for the project. Rather, at the end of the week, I go through the pictures I've taken in the past seven days, and choose one that fits the sense of... now. Some weeks, like this one, I hardly took any pictures at all, and the ones I did take weren't the greatest quality. Still, this little dandelion says something about the sky and the days and the air heavy with coming summer, so it seems fitting, even if it isn't a remarkable picture.

* * * * *

Conversations:

Caitlin -- you're right; it is hard to be real. I guess most valuable things take some real effort. I'm encouraged by your comment, so right back at you! (and yes, my Mum is the best :D)

Elisabeth -- glad to have you journeying on this same path. xx

Samantha -- yay! Can't wait to see what you have to share for the passions carnival.

Rebecca Simon -- and now you have the privilege of being that amazing mother-figure to your own little person!

Bethany -- yes yes on all counts! x

Hilla -- hooray for mums! I checked out your blog and I love your watercolour artwork. You have an amazing gift.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Emotions. Who'd have 'em?

It happens with such stunning regularity that I really should quit being surprised. It's like clockwork, actually: I'll publish an article somewhere, about something, and over the next few weeks I will butt heads with that very thing again and again. It's almost (absolutely really very much) like God is saying, 'Are you truly and consistently going to believe what you say you believe?'

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article in which I discussed the huge value of authenticity. People being real with other real people is something I'm passionate about, and the article focussed on the importance of not shuffling to cover our flaws but learning to be honest with one another and with God about the less-than-Pollyanna aspects of our lives. Sure enough, the past few weeks (and even during the writing of the article, if I'm being honest), I seem to have been at my most vulnerable worst. My poor mother, oh counsellor of saintly virtue, has borne the major brunt of my blubbering, whining, stressing, and neuroses. And I find myself apologising for it constantly -- apologising for the lack of cool, the lack of answers, the lack of fakery, the lack of feeling like a completely together grown-up.

But every time Mum responds with kindness or simply by listening patiently (never rolling her eyes at me even when I want to roll them at myself), I'm reminded that she doesn't love me because I'm awesome, mostly because a) I never was that awesome, and b) even if I somehow worked out how to be awesome, I'd forget quickly. And though I am passionate about authenticity, I've realised that I want my realness to come in a more attractive package, which isn't really real at all.

The thing is, weakness is awkward and uncomfortable, embarrassing and messy. It isn't pretty, and it never seems to showcase us at our best. It can't be packaged up into neat little clearly-defined boxes to be pulled out at appropriate moments. "Oh, it's vulnerable time? We're swapping weakness stories? Boy, do I have a doozy for you!"

Weakness is inconvenient. It's annoying. It makes us lean on others -- but that's part of its beauty. None of us want to revel in our weaknesses, but we can, in one sense, embrace them. Weakness tells us we are human. It says we are broken. It reminds us that we need each other and we need a Saviour. Those who love us best know we aren't perfect and, in fact, they rarely expect us to be. Thanks Mum.

* * * * *

Conversations:

Mothercare -- it was lovely, wasn't it? :)

Meaghan -- ooh! D&M weekends! I love it! PS. "From the area!!" PPS. This.

Carla -- THIS MUST BE REMEDIED!

Rebecca Simon -- I agree on both counts! :)

Jess A -- you are absolutely adorable. Your comment made me grin exceedingly widely.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

[lately] a meaghan weekend










Meaghan weekends are too far and few between in my world. It had been thirteen months since the last one, which means I was well overdue for a dose of this excellent lady, and this weekend definitely hit the spot (though it was all too short).

I had ideas about introducing Meaghan to every cool local discovery that we've stumbled across since she was last here and since about 75% of those have something to do with food, it's probably a good thing we only had three days. As it happened, we were able to grab a sort-of-breakfast one morning from Bittersweet (their locally-made pastries are amaaaazing) and a sort-of-lunch (apparently we don't have the greatest internal mealtime clocks) from my favourite bookstore-and-restaurant, Riverbend Books. We also had very excellent mocktails from Hog's Breath (their greatest virtue being that they were so pretty and they were delivered by the world's most quirky waiter, Sunny).

In true Queensland style, Meaghan got to experience Autumn, Summer, Spring, rain, storms, and sunshine in her three days here. She made my baby niece laugh uproariously and she was kindly amused by my little brother's random hyperactivity. Somehow, we picked the most random assortment of movies to watch together (can you say "my dead brother turned into a shooting star and guided me to the place where my girlfriend lay unconscious and potentially dying?") with the exception of a couple, among them Soul Surfer, which was heartbreaking and heartwarming. Also, we were kind of excited when we found the three Carey sisters represented in Coke bottles (win!) and only wish we could have found bottles with Carla & Meaghan on them, in order to complete the quintet of longtime pals. Next time, Coca Cola will be more forward thinking with their promotion, I'm sure.

Good friends are such treasures. More Meaghan weekends, please, God?

* * * * *

Conversations:

Un -- indeed they do.

Samantha R -- I'll definitely have to check out your latest Project 52 work :).

Laura Elizabeth -- thank you! And yes, we definitely had fun.

Carla -- :D we missed you!

Meaghan -- WDHF! WAHF!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Project 52: nineteen

-- truly excellent friend and truly lovely sister, both in the one place. Happy times!

* * * * *

Conversations:

Laura Elizabeth -- but I LOVE long comments! Therefore, they are welcome at any time and you need never apologise! I liked your Agatha Christie hand-me-downs. I think hand-me-down books are just as exciting as new ones, because they have a story attached. Oh, and to answer your question, I won the books from Penguin in a twitter contest/giveaway.

Rebecca Simon -- I KNOW!

SandieT -- They smell good and they feel nice; they're that kind of bendy paperback that you almost imagine you can roll up and slide into your pocket :).

Esther -- hooray! I had a wee blogging break while my friend was here, but I'm back now. And yes, the books are so pretty!

Mothercare -- I will definitely go with your recommendation and then we will have to watch the BBC miniseries together.

Un -- we would've liked to have had you here.

Bek -- you shoulda come up, then!

Meaghan -- it was so very much my pleasure :).

Thursday, October 13, 2011

temporary radio silence

My beloved friend, Meaghan, is coming to visit tomorrow and staying for the weekend! You won't hear much from me while that's happening because I'll be, yanno, hanging out with her. Updates Monday!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Penguin passion:

I'm not saying that Penguin has the monopoly on beautiful paperback design -- not really. But I am confessing that I've been in love with Penguin's paperbacks since I was a little kid. I am also confessing to purchasing copies of Penguin paperbacks that are not in readable condition, simply because I love to look at them. I even have them lining the picture rail in my bedroom, and sitting in little stacks in odd places.

My favourite Penguin cover is the simple tri-colour image with the solid bar at top and bottom, the title on cream in the centre, the text in bold black sans-serif -- and of course the enduring Penguin logo. To me, it's an example of classic, timeless design. I love it.

I was thrilled, then, when Penguin once again began publishing old (and new) favourites in this gorgeous imprint -- happy little orange paperbacks with crisp covers, perfect hangbag size, and at a good price.

I was even more thrilled, yesterday, though, when THESE BABIES arrived. Thrilled is possibly an understatement; delirious might be closer to fact. The latest twenty-six Popular Penguins, all in a box, all courtesy of Penguin on Twitter*, delivered to my door. Can we please spare a moment for some serious exclamation pointage?

! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

(The extra exclamation point is for the adorable book bag that also came in the box).

It's kind of totally a book-and-Penguin-lover's dream come true.

So now, my friends, where to start? I definitely want to blog my way through these books, sharing my reactions, which ones were my favourites, which ones were not, which ones you will just have to try for yourselves -- and I want your help to decide which to start on. I've narrowed down a possible starting place with these six:

The High Window, Raymond Chandler
The Pearl, John Steinbeck
The Day of the Triffids, John Wyndham
The Accidental, Ali Smith
The Autograph Man, Zadie Smith
A Kestrel for a Knave, Barry Hines

Which one/s have you read? Which did you love the most? Which titles intrigue you? I'm ready to be dictated to by your choices! Thank you, Penguin, for providing so much giddy bookish joy!

*Follow them on Twitter for book news, quizzes and giveaways, and general bookish appreciation.


Edited to add: no wonder I felt so much affinity with this blog design; check out the layout and the colours. Hmm...

* * * * *

Conversations:

Laura Elizabeth -- November meet-up possibilities WOOHOO! (and yes, I love mum and dad's mugs, too)

Katie -- the moustache mug also has Frida Kahlo's eyebrows on it. It's basically amazing.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Project 52: eighteen

-- tea and coffee, Mum's and Dad's, plaid and mustaches.

* * * * *

Conversations:

Laura Elizabeth -- I like it that we experience the same weather and that you know exactly what I'm talking about! PS. Good luck with your intense week of school! xx

Samantha R -- better late than never indeed! This one's going to just scrape in before it clicks over to Tuesday. Oh, and I expect to see lots of Autumny pictures as everything turns red and gold over there. Lovely!

Un -- BREADTOPPPPP! (let's have some when you come next, right?)

Rebecca Simon -- "Spolphet" made me laugh, too! Word verifications can be hilarious :D :D :D.

Jessica -- it's an amazing, tree-lined street. So beautiful!

Carla -- aww, that would be so much fun! The bunch of us and assorted extras all getting together for a reunion (I'm imagining it in cabins by the beach. Sound good?).

Meaghan -- HGDHASGDFHGHGHGSHDHG!!!! << okay, that was dangerous. I started clicking like a crazy person and accidentally opened up weird dialogue boxes.

Cara -- ice-cream and a crazy run in a lightning storm definitely turn things around :).

Lauren -- your comment made me lol :). See you tomorrow night!

Mothercare -- it was good, indeed. Thanks for 'getting' me.

Katie -- I quite love a good lightning storm -- from the shelter of my house!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

[life stories] lightning

(no pictures, just words):

It had been kind of a weird day, for a Saturday. Unmet expectations, plans shelved in favour of other plans that didn't eventuate, lingering at home for visitors who didn't come, thoughtless words spoken, then regretted. Face twisted, teetering on the verge of tears all day long, fighting against sadness with no real legitimacy, no explanation.

Just one of those days, I guess.

After dinner, we walked, the four of us, down the hill to get ice cream. We smiled and talked and felt the breeze turn to cold on our already-summerised skin. It helped, to step out of the normal into another normal.

We compared notes:
Try the peanut butter choc.
I got hokey pokey but it's super rich.
Really? I had it, too, and I thought it was okay.

Above the shop roofs, past the power lines, beyond the dark shadow of trees and bush and whatever beyond that, lightning twitched. It came in sheets first, quick flashes like some divine photographer was priming his camera. Then, as we began the walk home, it morped into forks, flickering from the top end of the sky down to stab the earth. Rain followed, fat drops of cold which fell one by one at first and then nearer together. Finally, it came in vast uncountable waves. We jogged, walked, and then ran up the hill.

Move faster -- and don't hide under any trees!
Sure. But I don't want to run to save myself from lightning only to die of a heart attack once I'm home.

We laughed, but I suspect it was only half fun. The other half was fear-fuelled exhilaration. There was a possibility of danger, and that was enough.

We stumbled onto the verandah of the house and stood there while water pooled around our feet. My shoes were sodden and heavy. My mascara had run and the ghostly black circles under my eyes must've made me look ghoulish.

"I no scared no more," my brother said, entirely too loudly. He was breathless and wide-eyed but grinning.

Happy Saturday.

* * * * *

Conversations in tomorrow's post (when I'm not so sleepy).

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Daybook #11



Outside my window the sky is grey, the grass is wet, the air is cold, the mood is distinctly... sleepy.

I have been listening to less music than usual over the last few weeks. Any recommendations?

I have been wearing anything hurriedly pulled from my wardrobe, it seems. Since things have been summery and wintry, warm and cool, I never quite know what to wear. Today it's denim and cardigans.

I am thankful for the very cute little outdoor setting my parents set up on the Housie verandah. I foresee quiet moments with tea and books out there.

I am pondering thoughts on passion with a purpose, what it means to be made in the image of God, the tension between the real and the ideal in Renaissance literature (an essay that needs to be written), and why rainy days make me so drowsy.

I am reading Red Spikes, a collection of short stories by Margo Lanagan. Each story has something ethereal, even unsettling, about it. The words are delicious, the characters intriguing and often introspective. And there is just enough creepiness to make me want to keep reading, but tentatively.

I am creating words and deadlines and deadlines and words.

I am looking forward to the arrival, in eight days, of one of my best friends, Meaghan. We get to have three days together and we intend to talk, eat unhealthy things, watch stuff, soak up sunshine, explore, rule the Housie, and just be together. I'm so looking forward to this.

A picture-thought I'm sharing is not one, but three. Hayley was in town on Monday and, though I knew her back when we were both in primary school, we hadn't met since we'd become grownups and bloggy pals. We stormed Sunnybank Hills, everyone's favourite little-Asia-in-Brisbane, and I introduced Hayley to the delights of EasyWay bubble tea and BreadTop. Also on Monday, I got to watch The Help with Ruth and then we stayed at McDonald's for hours, talking together until we saw the menu board switch over to the breakfast meal options. It was a good day.

* * * * *

Conversations:

Laura Elizabeth -- I agree with you wholeheartedly. Every Sunday afternoon should be lazy, in my opinion.

Esther -- I want to ask you to forgive me for posting tantalising food pictures but I feel sure I may spring some on you again. You have been warned! ;) Your list of Sunday afternoon activities is fabulous, and honestly I can't think of a better way for you to have introduced yourself than in sharing that. Bravo and thank you for your lovely comment!

Chantel -- you are so sweet. Thank you.

Katie -- it definitely seems that the consensus for a great Sunday afternoon involves going slow, with good things to do and nice people to do them with.

Bek Axe -- B-D

Un -- nice long comment!! Of particular note: calling me a dag, Brian McFadden reference, Favourite Noodle reference, your so-called awkwardness disbelief.

Jessica -- actually, I'm much the same. I'd love to have done my chores on Saturday, but usually Things Happen, and Sunday afternoon becomes a time for small jobs here and there. Weirdly, though, I quite enjoy that.

Rebecca Simon -- fish and chips feels like such a great Aussie tradition, doesn't it (though, having said that, I'm sure we stole it from the Brits)?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Project 52: seventeen

-- Sunday lunch, fish and chips down by the bay.

This week's 52 moments post is sneaking in incredibly past the loosely-prescribed deadline of "sometime over the weekend", but I hope you guys will forgive me. What's your favourite Sunday afternoon activity, whether in spring (if you're a southerner like me) or autumn for all you northern hemisphereans? I also want to say a hi and you-make-me-happy to new followers and new Google readers who have started reading over the past week or so. Feel free to drop a line introducing yourself. I love to make new blog friends!

* * * * *

Conversations:

Mothercare -- you know I listen to you even more than I listen to Ira Glass, right?

Laura Elizabeth -- one day there will be a great celebration in the world where awkward people may unite and celebrate their awkwardness. I will be the one tripping over the banner.

Ruth -- heehee! :D PS. Monday night was excellentttttt! I love hanging out with you and The Help was so good.

Rebecca Simon -- thank you for sharing all my awkward joy! And thank you for forever being encouraging! How's your little person going? I dearly want you to blog more now that I can't lurk you on facebook!

Katie -- I think that quote is one of those ones I'll have to pull out about once a month. Why is it so easy to forget simple and good truths about creativity? I can't absolutely promise I'll share a scan of the newspaper photo, but if it's not toooo terrifying, I might :).

Elizabeth Fay -- I love you! Thank you for making me smile.

Elizabeth -- And I'm excited for you!

HCH -- right back at you! (only of course, I want you to sign your book with your name, obvs).

Elisabeth -- one of the simultaneous benefits and disadvantages of being the one holding the camera means that there are rarely pictures of me. Usually this is helpful!

Samantha R -- you are such a dear!! I could almost envision you waving happy cheerleading pompoms because you shared in my excitement with such enthusiasm. xxx

SandieT -- YES! I either prefer the entirely invisible audience reading my words from a distance, or the very small familiar audience of close friends and family. I'm not a fan of public speaking of any kind! The important thing is that you are using your gift; writing, listening, revising, re-working: This is the real work of any author. << This is so true. Thank you!

Cara -- you are so wise! I've been thinking a lot lately about how I measure "success" as a writer and mostly I'm discovering that I've made those markers far too narrow. As Sandie said above, the true mark of a writer is someone who works at perfecting her craft and constantly moving forward, whether that means "success" in the publishing arena or not. Your thoughts complement this idea so well. Thank you!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

In which I get to pretend like I'm semi-famous, with dubious results:

I think I've mentioned before that my local council library system might be the best in the world. The libraries themselves are top notch; my favourite even has its own cafe window. Iced coffee + reading = winning. But what continues to impress me is the ongoing dedication to developing emerging artists within the local community. In particular, I've been privileged to benefit from the Authors in Action program, a series of author talks, worshops, and events facilitated by the Redland Libraries for the purpose of educating and developing local readers and writers by exposing them to great stories, great teachers, and great opportunities.

One of these opportunities is the Redlitzer Award for 2011, a writing contest for prose work of any genre up to 3000 words. I was honoured to be one of ten finalists chosen by the judges, authors Louise Cusack and Anita Bell, and got to spend a day with the other nine authors and nine runners-up as we discussed the craft of writing and learnt from published writers under the facilitation of Arthurian fiction writer MK Hume. The day provided a brilliant opportunity to meet other local writers as well as to workshop our short stories with guidance from those who have been there and done it all before.

Last night was the Redlitzer Gala event, the launch of the 2011 anthology and announcement of the editor's choice for best short piece of the ten finalists. The event was beautifully hosted by the Victoria Point library, with balloons, champagne, and canapes among the bookshelves. Of course, I did not consume said treats since inevitably at such events I am always either a) talking too much, or b) too nervous to risk holding actual food and drinks in my actual hands. Yes, last night I was both.

The Redland Shire mayor, Melva Hobson, opened the evening by commending the anthology as well as the council's dedication to bringing the work of emerging local artists into the light of day. Guest speaker journalist Frances Whiting discussed the ways in which writing has impacted her life, showing us both the poignant and the hilarious sides of writing a personal column for the public to read. Her stories were so good I (almost) wanted to ditch fiction and focus my attention on journalism instead.

Everyone was thrilled when Beverley Asmus (in the picture above, book-signing like a pro) won the editor's choice award for her story, Sticks and Stones, and Jo McHenry received an encouragement award for The Swallows of Wellington Point. Then we all got our hands on a copy of the anthology -- yay! However, in the balance of weights and measures that is life on this crazy planet, there was a price to pay for the joy of seeing work in print, and this came in the form of a) getting pictures taken, and b) pretending to be a breezy, established author. I'm beaming and confident when I'm just a face in the crowd, but the minute any form of spotlight swings even remotely in my direction -- even if it's just a Mini Maglite -- I become strangely non-human.

Of course, with regards to the picture-taking, the Socially Awkward Penguin in me immediately came waddling to the fore. I stood there frozen while the photographer arranged the anthology authors to her pleasing, and by the time we were in an adequate formation, I'd been smiling so long I'd actually forgotten how to.
What do I do with my cheeks?
My lips! My lips! I can't feel them!
Why are my teeth getting in the road?
I guess when the paper comes out I will see the full force of my multiple facial seizures. Until then, I'm going to pretend that didn't happen.

Then someone got the brilliant idea to set up a signing table for the authors to sign copies of the anthology. Soon there was a production line set up with a long white table, nine chairs, and a row of fresh black Sharpies ("Just like for real authors!") and we sat there while people brought us their copies to sign. It felt so very much like playing at being Real Authors that I kept laughing and thinking, This is silly! I'm not a Real Author! Then, when the lovely journalist Frances Whiting pushed her copy towards me to sign, the ridiculousness of it overflowed out loud: "This is so stupid! You should be signing things!"

When I thought all that awkwardness was over, I went to say goodbye to one of the authors whose workshops have taught me so much and really given my writing education a big shove in the right direction. She had some encouraging words to say which really meant a lot. In response, I turned into a malfunctioning robot and could only make repetitive gushing sounds which probably sounded something like THANK YOU OH THANKS YOU HAVE TAUGHT ME SO MUCH I AM NOT WORTHY I WILL KEEP TRYING THANK YOU IS MY FACE SHINY. But even malfunctioning robots such as myself have hearts, and those words found their way there -- so thank you.

Perhaps all this is to teach me that with every small gift comes some measure of awkward pain. And should I someday have figured out enough of life and of words to be a Real Author, and I am seventy-five years old and signing copies of My Very Own Books in a Borders store somewhere (because in my dream world there will still be Borders stores and we'll still be reading paper books when I'm seventy-five), and I seem confident and gracious and I actually have a nice signature -- and should you be an introverted youngster still learning and hoping and wondering if your writing dreams will come true, and should you go home and Google my name and somehow come across this blog post (because of course Google will still be around in 2055), then know this, my friend: that graciousness and confidence you see in the seventy-five-year-old me? I'm probably faking it. Inside is a malfunctioning robot just busting to get out.

Imma go practice my signature now.

* * * * *

Conversations:

Laura Elizabeth -- you and me and our mums and IRA!!!!!!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Saturday Inspiration #5



This is some of the best advice I've ever heard on the topic of growing as a creative worker. It's also delivered by my favourite journalist ever, Ira Glass. I've come across the quote numerous times, and it's like a helpful punch in the stomach every time. This audio-visual rendering is doubly excellent -- Ira Glass's cool nerd voice, and pretty type. I'm so happy I get to see this guy in person on January 12th!

* * * * *

Conversations:

Samantha R -- agreed. I've seen pictures of your dog and I actually think she's pretty cute. Plus, she's 'Australian', so I feel an instant bond with her ;).

Mothercare -- I suspected it was older, but I wasn't entirely sure. (your comment disappeared!)

Bethany -- oh YES. That's incredibly frustrating! Honestly, that should have been on my list!
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